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Migrants die amid Libya 'coastguard' attack

Published 21/10/2016

The risky crossing from Libya has been the main route used by migrants in recent months
The risky crossing from Libya has been the main route used by migrants in recent months

At least four people have died off the coast of Libya and more are missing after a rubber boat full of dozens of migrants was attacked by a group aboard a speedboat apparently belonging to the Libyan coastguard, a German aid group said.

Dozens of people were tipped into the water in the panic that followed the attack, and there were fears that the death toll could rise into double digits.

The Sea-Watch group said it had been called by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre to the site nine miles from the Libyan coast.

As its crew was handing out life vests, the speedboat approached and its occupants started hitting migrants with sticks, causing panic, spokesman Ruben Neugebauer said.

One tube of the rubber boat collapsed, and most of the estimated 150 people on board ended up in the water.

Sea-Watch, which said the assailants prevented its crew from handing out more life vests and medical aid, said 120 people were taken aboard one of its boats.

Four bodies were recovered, but Mr Neugebauer said there were more corpses that could not be retrieved.

He said the coastguard ship "had several people on board" and had been seen in the area repeatedly.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, more than 3,600 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe this year.

The risky crossing from North Africa, Libya in particular, has been the main route used by migrants in recent months.

AP

In Libya, a coastguard spokesman said investigators were looking into the report.

Brigadier-General Ayoub Gasem said coastguard officials assured him they were not involved in the incident.

AP

Press Association

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