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Thieves stole bell from Costa Concordia wreck

In this undated underwater photo released by the Italian Carabinieri Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, two police scuba divers swim next to the Costa Concordia cruise ship's bell, off the tiny island of Giglio, Italy. AP Photo/Carabinieri

ROME, March 15 - Thieves have stolen the shipwrecked Costa Concordia's bell, evading an array of lasers and 24-hour surveillance by the Italian coast guard and police, Reuters reported.

The bell, with the words Costa Concordia written around it, is believed to be have been taken recently off the end of the ship, which is submerged in 26 feet of water.

Prosecutors have opened an investigation and suspect multiple people were involved in stealing the heavy bell. Franco Gabrielli, Italy's national official for search and salvage efforts, told reporters Thursday when he visited Giglio island that the bell disappeared several days ago.

Salvaging the Costa Concordia
Costa Concordia evidence hearing

Gabrielli said a search was on to find the bell. Salvage teams from a Dutch company are currently working around the ship to extract fuel from the wreckage.

The $450 million Costa Concordia was carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew when it slammed into rocks off the Italian island of Giglio on January 13 after the captain made an unauthorized diversion from his programmed route.

At least 25 people were killed in the accident and the whereabouts of another seven people remain unknown.

Capt. Francesco Schettino, who left the ship before everyone was safely evacuated, has been blamed by prosecutors for causing the shipwreck and abandoning the Costa Concordia.

Giglio mayor Sergio Ortelli told Reuters, "I can only guess that someone took it as a sort of morbid memento." 

"In my mind, the missing bell is of no importance," Ortelli said. He said divers had found the ship's statue of the Madonna from the chapel which "for us has much more symbolic meaning."