There was a horrific discovery of the bodies of more than two dozen migrant women in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday.

This has left Italian officials wondering whether the women were purposely killed, and why all who died were female.

Lorena Ciccotti, police chief in the southern Italian port city of Salerno, told CNN that officials have launched an investigation into the women's cause of the death to see if they had been tortured or sexually assaulted.

Officials believe the 26 women, who are all Nigerian and range from 14 to 18 years old, died attempting the dangerous journey from Libya to Europe over the weekend.

Libya is the biggest launchpad for African migrants hoping to build new lives in Europe.

Sub-Saharan Africans wishing to flee poverty or war have taken advantage of Libya's power vacuum, which has allowed smugglers to operate, for the most part, without restraint.

Migrants' desire to reach Italy — a country in close proximity to Libya — has made the North African country a center for human smuggling.

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