Berlin-based NGO says armed men attacked refugee boat off Libya
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 Libya.
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 news about the incident.
Many refugees fleeing from war and persecution in conflict zones in North Africa 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.