Authorities are investigating after 26 teenage girls were found dead in the Mediterranean Sea.
The girls were all between the ages of 14 and 18, according to CNN. They are believed to have been migrants from Niger and Nigeria.
Authorities are investigating the deaths to determine whether the girls had been sexually assaulted or tortured. The teens are believed to have died while attempting to make a journey from Libya to Europe.
Rescuers found the teens’ bodies near a rubber dinghy that was close to sinking. Rescuers said survivors were found hanging onto the boat while the bodies of those who died were floating around them.
Two men have been arrested in connection with the deaths after investigators suspected that the girls were murdered, according to The Guardian.
The girls’ bodies were found by the Spanish vessel Cantabria, which is part of Europe’s anti-trafficking operation, Sophia, and taken to the Italian port city of Salerno. The bodies were reportedly from two shipwrecks. There were 23 bodies from one shipwreck and three from the other. There are still 53 people believed to be missing.
The two men arrested in connection with the finding have been identified as Libyan Al Mabrouc Wisam Harar and Egyptian Mohamed Ali Al Bouzid. The men are believed to have captained one of the boats.
The rescue was one of four rescue operations carried out in the Mediterranean in the same weekend. A total of 400 people were rescued on Cantabria and brought to Salerno. Of those rescued, 90 were women and 52 were minors, including one week-old baby.