26 teenage girls found dead in the Mediterranean sea

Italian police have launched an investigation after the bodies of 26 teenage girls were recovered in the Mediterranean Sea Sunday.

The girls, ranging in age from 14-18 years old, are thought to have been migrants from Niger and Nigeria trying to reach Europe via a notoriously treacherous route from Libya, CNN reported.

RELATED: See mugshots from an earlier human trafficking sting this year

35 PHOTOS
Mugshots from those arrested in Houston area sex trafficking sting
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Mugshots from those arrested in Houston area sex trafficking sting
George Crittenden
Jimmy Gutierrez
Ronald Giron
Yosbel Garcia
Jorge Garcia
Michael Gager
Charles Ezeude
Javier Espinosa
Alfredo Dupuy
Dyna Duk
Patrick Dade
Saulo Cruz
Francisco Contreras
Juan Cortez
Barry Cline
Marco Carrizales
Monte Campbell
Tony Bunch
Raymond Bull
Ethan Campbell
Jimmy Brown
Jose Acosta
Delrick Brown
Anthony Britan
Michael Bond
Vasilis Badidos
Sergio Arreola
Brian Ard
Osmel Amaya
Iheanyichukui Amaliri
Cristobal Alvarado
Thaddeus Allen
David Alipio
Jose Aguliar-Hernandez
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Investigators are trying to discover whether the girls were tortured or sexually abused, Lorena Ciccotti, the head of police in Salerno, told the outlet. Autopsies were scheduled to be performed Tuesday.

The girls' bodies were recovered by a Spanish navy ship conducting rescue operations in the area. According to Ciccotti, aid workers saw survivors clinging on to the remains of a vessel as the girls' bodies floated in the water nearby.

SEE ALSO: FBI rescues more than 80 children in nationwide human trafficking sting

The rescue mission was one of several operations carried out in the region over the weekend. In total, authorities brought aboard 400 people. Among the teens were 90 women, 52 minors, and a week-old infant. 

Libya has become a well-known port for human traffickers with smuggling operations reportedly going widely unchecked considering the country's lack of a central government system.

RELATED: Human trafficking in India

10 PHOTOS
Human trafficking in India
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Human trafficking in India
MUMBAI, INDIA - 2009/02/01: An Indian taxi driver on the streets of Mumbai. He is a rural migrant guestworker and says openly that he and his friends tend to buy sex from Nepalese girls. Many men in India prefer the Nepalese women because of their 'innocent looks'. Many of the women and girls they pay to have sex with are sex slaves, trafficked across the border from Nepal.. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MUMBAI, INDIA - 2009/01/30: Bombay. City of Dreams. For a fortunate few the dream comes true. Others may see both their dreams and their future betrayed. Every year some 12,000 girls are trafficked from Nepal to brothels in India, where already 200,000 Nepalese women and girls are working. Most of these sex slaves are conned into making the trip with offers of ficticious jobs, others are simply sold to the traffickers and brothel owners.. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MUMBAI, INDIA - 2009/02/03: A man leaves a house in the red-light district where numerous Nepalese women and girls who have been trafficked across the border live and work, often as sex slaves, locked up and servicing as many as 10 men or more per day, paying off fictitious debts.. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MUMBAI, INDIA - 2009/02/01: Rajan lives in the brothel area in Kamathipura where numerous Nepalese women and girls who have been trafficked across the border live and work, often as sex slaves, locked up and servicing as many as 10 men or more per day, paying off fictitious debts.. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SUNAULI, NEPAL - 2009/02/07: Maiti Nepal's anti-sex slave workers, who are patrolling the Nepal/India border crossing points, find a girl on a bus who doesn?t know the name of her new alleged place of work. She?s taken off the bus by forcible means. After some quick calls she is informed that the job she was heading for in India, a job as a secretary, doesn?t exist. She lowers her gaze upon finding out. She?s sent home to her family and gets her childhood back. Maiti Nepal is an organization fighting the sex trade in Nepal and the trafficking of girls and women into India.. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SUNAULI, NEPAL - 2009/02/08: Maili, who works for Maiti Nepal, questions girls and young women who may be being trafficked across the border into India as sex-slaves. She always looks the passengers in the eye and asks the young girls: 'Where are you from?' and 'how well do you know the people you are travelling with?' Maili says that it is easy to see if someone is lying. 'We ourselves have been in exactly the same situation as those we are questioning.' Each car, bicycle taxi and bus is checked. Last year 1,618 girls were rescued and got their childhood back. Approximately 12,000 broke through Maiti Nepal's cordon. The odds are on the traffickers side.. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SUNAULI, NEPAL - 2009/02/08: Maili, who works for Maiti Nepal, walks through a bus looking for girls and young women who may be being trafficked across the border into India as sex-slaves. She looks the passengers in the eye and asks the young girls: 'Where are you from?' and 'how well do you know the people you are travelling with?' Maili says that it is easy to see if someone is lying. 'We ourselves have been in exactly the same situation as those we are questioning.'. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SUNAULI, NEPAL - 2009/02/10: The slave traders provide the girls with fake IDs and instructions on how to behave in order to dupe Maiti Nepal?s frontier guards. The latest smuggling trick is to hide the girls in gasoline trucks, or simply to drive past the border guards at full speed in jeeps with tinted windows. Maiti Nepal is an organization fighting the sex trade in Nepal and the trafficking of girls and women into India. They have border patrol guards manning the numerous crossing points twenty four hours a day.. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL - 2009/01/19: Breakfast at the Maiti Nepal Rehabilitation Center in Kathmandu. Maiti Nepal is an organization fighting the sex trade in Nepal and the trafficking of girls and women into India. About 200 women and children live at the Rehabilitation Center. Everybody here has one thing in common - they are all former sex slaves or children of sex slaves.. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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