Autopsies are being carried out to determine the cause of death of 26 teenage African girls, whose corpses were picked up in the Mediterranean.

CNN reported that the girls, aged between 14 and 18, were from Niger and Nigeria and were probably trying to get to the European mainland from Libya.

A Spanish warship, which had over 370 other rescued migrants on board from four separate operations, took the corpses to Salerno.

Lorena Ciccotti, police chief in Salerno, said that the corpses were found near a partially submersed rubber dinghy.

Police prefect Salvatore Malfi said it was possible that the girls had been deliberately thrown into the sea, and the authorities want to determine whether the girls had been tortured or sexually abused.

AFP reported that those on the Spanish ship included 90 women and 52 minors, including a week-old-baby.

Since the start of 2017, 2,839 migrants have died along the central Mediterranean route, according to the International Organization for Migration. More than 150,000 migrants have reached European shores, of which around 74 percent are Italian arrivals.

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