Many Migrants Feared Dead After Boat Sinks Off Libya

Many Migrants Feared Dead After Boat Sinks Off Libya

LIBYA-superJumbo-v3NY Times, Tripoli Libya — A wooden boat carrying as many as 200 migrants sank about a half-mile off the coast of Libya, the coast guard said Saturday, and most passengers were feared drowned.

The local coast guard said it commandeered fishing vessels for a rescue effort after being alerted to the sinking. The coast guard rescued 16 people, an official said.

Migrants have been streaming out of North Africa in rickety boats in rising numbers for years. More than 100,000 have reached Italy so far in 2014, the Italian government said. Libya is a major departure point for the journey, with human traffickers exploiting the political chaos and lack of security in the country after Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was toppled in an uprising in 2011.

The small boat crammed with 150 to 200 migrants sank late on Friday near Qarabouli, east of Tripoli, said a local coast guard official, Mohammad Abdel-Latif. The coast guard in Qarabouli has no equipment so it must borrow fishing vessels and tugboats to carry out rescue missions, Mr. Abdel-Latif said.

Separately on Saturday, the air force of Khalifa Hifter, a renegade general, attacked the positions of an Islamist-leaning militia in the capital, Tripoli, for the second time in less than a week, one of his commanders said.

The faction under attack, Operation Dawn, said the raids had killed 10 people and wounded dozens.

General Hifter launched a campaign against Islamists in the eastern city of Benghazi in May, and gave his support to fighters from the western region of Zintan who are battling militias from Misurata.

Residents heard loud explosions early in the morning near the main airport where the two groups have been battling for control for more than a month.

A local television channel, Al Nabaa, said planes had attacked four positions held by Operation Dawn. Mohamed Gharyani, a spokesman for Operation Dawn, said buildings belonging to Al Waha, the state oil firm, were also hit.

General Hifter’s forces also claimed responsibility for air raids on Operation Dawn positions in Tripoli on Monday.

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