A wooden boat with around 170 African migrants on board
trying to reach Europe has sunk in rough seas off the Libyan
coast, a spokesman for the Libyan navy says.
Migrants have been streaming out of North Africa in rickety
boats in rising numbers for years. So far in 2014, the total
number reaching Italian shores has passed 100,000, the
Italian government said this week.
"The coast guards have rescued 17 of the illegal migrants,"
navy spokesman Ayoub Qassem said.
A search for the rest of the passengers was underway, he
The boat sank late on Friday (local time) near Qarabouli,
east of Tripoli, a common launchpad used by human traffickers
smuggling people to Europe, Qassem said.
Local coast guard official Mohammad Abdellatif told Reuters
Television they had been alerted to the sinking by local
fishermen at dawn on Saturday morning.
Abdellatif said the coast guard in Qarabouli had no equipment
and so is forced to borrow fishing vessels and tug boats to
carry out their rescue missions.
He said they had informed the hospital, ministry of health
and the criminal investigations department of the accident
and that all three had defused to collect the bodies.
All of the people rescued had been released as there was
nowhere to detain them, he said.
The Italian navy told Reuters they were not involved in the
incident and had no further details.
Italy is carrying out the bulk of patrols in the
Mediterranean Sea aimed at preventing major tragedies
involving migrants. More than 70,000 people have been rescued
through the "Mare Nostrum" (Our Sea) mission of patrols which
Italy began last October.