Greek coast guard shoot dead suspected migrant smuggler on speedboat

ATHENS Tue Apr 15, 2014 8:32am EDT

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ATHENS (Reuters) - A man believed to be a migrant smuggler was shot dead by Greek coast guard officials on Tuesday as they tried to intercept him on his speedboat heading towards neighboring Turkey, the Greek coast guard said.

Tuesday's pre-dawn incident occurred after the man transported seven migrants to a remote part of the southeastern Aegean island of Kos, the coast guard said in a statement.

"Warning shots were fired in a safe area towards the speedboat's engine and as a result the smuggler was fatally injured, possibly by a bullet ricochet," the coast guard said.

The seven migrants were arrested, they said.

Greece is one of the main gateways into the European Union for hundreds of thousands of mostly African and Asian migrants each year. Syria's civil war has increased the human traffic, and hundreds have died on the perilous journey in unsafe boats.

Greece, along with its Mediterranean EU neighbors Italy and Malta, has long urged its peers in the bloc to do more to handle the flood of illegal migrants.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has made tackling illegal immigration a priority during Greece's six-month stint as holder of the rotating EU presidency.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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