Diplomatic and Military Affairs

25 migrants found dead on boat traveling to Italy

Updated: 2011-08-02 07:54

(China Daily)

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ROME - Italy's coastguard found the bodies of 25 would-be migrants from Libya on Monday in the hold of a boat crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to the small Italian island of Lampedusa.

The officials said they found the corpses - all young men - after boarding the overcrowded boat a few kilometers off Lampedusa, which is closer to North Africa than the Italian mainland.

Coast Guard Captain Antonio Morana said the 15-meter boat was carrying 296 people. He said all the victims were believed to be of sub-Saharan origin. According to the survivors, the boat had set sail from Libya two days ago.

Hundreds of people are believed to have died in recent months while attempting the dangerous crossing, fleeing unrest and conflict in Libya and across North Africa. In April, a boat believed to be carrying 300 migrants from Libya capsized, leaving 250 people presumed dead.

The causes of the deaths of the 25 men were not clear, Morana said, though ANSA news agency reported they may have died from asphyxiation.

The hold also served as engine room, according to ANSA. As the air became unbreathable, migrants tried to exit but the boat was too packed for those standing above to move aside.

Back in Libya, rebels rounded up at least 63 people suspected of murdering their military chief and having links to Muammar Gadhafi, after an hours-long battle in their eastern stronghold of Benghazi. Rebel forces patrolled the streets overnight in a bid to track down more members of the pro-Gadhafi group, a rebel spokesman said, as shoppers stocked up ahead of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

"We caught about 38 and later today more than 25," Mustafa al-Sagazly, the spokesman, said late on Sunday.

"Some of them ran away, and we are trying to catch them all over the city," he said. "We are arresting them."

The arrests came hot on the heels of a five-hour raid by the rebel-backed February 17 Brigade on a Benghazi factory, leaving four rebels and five Gadhafi loyalists dead.

Medics and rebels had said at least four rebel and 11 pro-Gadhafi fighters were killed in the fierce shootout.



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