Mi­grants die amid Libya ‘coast guard’ at­tack

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

At least four peo­ple died off the coast of Libya and more were miss­ing af­ter a rub­ber boat car­ry­ing around 150 mi­grants was at­tacked yes­ter­day by a group aboard a speed­boat la­belled as be­long­ing to Libya's coast guard, 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, ac­cord­ing to the Sea-Watch group.

Sea-Watch said it had crew mem­bers re­spond­ing to the boat 14 kilo­me­tres from Libya's coast when the at­tacked hap­pened.

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

In the en­su­ing panic, part of the rub­ber boat col­lapsed and most of the es­ti­mated 150 peo­ple on­board ended up in the wa­ter, Neuge­bauer said.

Sea-Watch said the as­sailants pre­vented its crew from hand­ing out more life-vests and med­i­cal aid, but crew mem­bers were able to get 120 peo­ple onto one of their boats.

Four bod­ies were re­cov­ered, but Neuge­bauer said there were other corpses that couldn't be re­trieved and the death toll could rise into dou­ble dig­its.

He said the speed­boat bear­ing the in­signia of the Libyan Coast Guard “had sev­eral peo­ple on board” and had been seen in the area re­peat­edly.

In Libya, a spokesman for the Navy and Coast Guard said in­ves­ti­ga­tors were look­ing into the re­port. Brig-Gen. Ay­oub Gasem told The As­so­ci­ated Press that Coast Guard of­fi­cials as­sured him they were not in­volved in the re­ported at­tack.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion 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, and Libya in par­tic­u­lar, has been the main route smug­glers and mi­grants have used in re­cent months.

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