Berlin-based non-governmental organization says armed men attacked refugee boat off Libya

October 21, 2016 4:30 pm

The photo taken in Malta on April 23, 2015, shows the coffins of 24 refugees who died after a vessel carrying asylum-seekers capsized off the Libyan coast. (Photo by AFP)

A Berlin-based non-governmental organization says armed men aboard a vessel presumably belonging to the Libyan Coast Guard have attacked another boat packed with about 150 refugees off .
Sea-Watch said in a statement on Friday that four of the refugees fell into the water and drowned. 
The speedboat with the assailants on board was labeled “Libyan Coast Guard.”
“The violent intervention of the Libyan Coast Guard caused a situation of mass panic on board the rubber boat in distress,” Sea-Watch said in a statement.
The deadly incident occurred overnight Thursday.
The NGO said the attackers beat the passengers with sticks. “One tube of the rubber boat collapsed, causing the majority of the 150 people to slip into the water,” Sea-Watch stated.
Ruben Neugebauer, the NGO’s spokesman, said the group was still conducting rescue operations.
A spokesman for Libya’s naval forces in the capital Tripoli, however, said he had heard no about the incident.

This handout picture released by the Italian navy on June 29, 2016, shows a drowned fishing boat in the Mediterranean used by human traffickers to carry refugees to Europe. (Photo by AFP)

Many refugees fleeing from war and persecution in conflict zones in North and the Middle East seek asylum in Europe.
The UN says more than 3,650 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean so far in 2016.
The coasts of Libya have become a launch pad for asylum-seekers heading for Europe.
The European Union has launched Operation Sophia, a naval mission tasked with reducing the flow of refugees transported aboard smugglers’ boats across the Mediterranean. The operation began in the wake of the death of dozens of refugees on board a boat off the coast of Italy’s Lampedusa in July 2015.
The mission is meant to stem the flow of refugees mainly from Libya to Italy.
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