Over 4,000 migrants rescued off Libya: Italian coast guard

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Some 4,100 people were rescued off the Libyan coasts on Thursday, Italian officials said.

Overall, twenty-two operations were carried out to assist migrants and refugees sailing aboard overcrowded crafts in the Strait of Sicily, between Italy and Libya, a coast guard spokesman told Xinhua.

The operations involved Italy's navy ships and coast guard patrol boats, along with other forces from the European Union (EU) naval mission EUNAVFOR MED and EU borders agency Frontex, according to the coast guard.

Also on Thursday, a migrant boat capsized 35 nautical miles north of the Libyan city of Zuwara, and 20 to 30 people were feared to have drowned in the incident, Italian media said.

A EUNAVFOR MED reconnaissance aircraft spotted the craft, which had already capsized, with an estimated 100 people into the waters around it, Ansa news agency cited EU mission and Italian coast guard sources as saying.

Pictures taken from the EU plane showed migrants and refugees clinging desperately to the half-submerged boat.

Some 90 people were rescued in the operation, which was carried out by a Spanish ship, and two vessels from Italy's coast guard.

It was the second tragedy in two days involving migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe through the southern Mediterranean Sea.

Some 540 people were rescued and seven bodies were recovered on Wednesday, Italian media reported, after another deadly shipwreck occurred off the Libyan coasts.

The overcrowded boat on which they were sailing capsized shortly after being spotted by a ship of the Italian navy.

In fact, around 650 people had left Libya on board of the craft, according to what survivors told Italian authorities once brought to land in Sicily.

Considering Thursday's latest operations, at least 7,000 people were rescued in the southern Mediterranean over the past three days.

After the recent closure of the Balkan route, and the coming of the summer season, the number of migrants and refugees trying the more perilous journey through the Mediterranean has increased.

Some 37,785 people have arrived in Italy by sea from January to May 25, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR. At least 1,380 were reported dead or missing up to the same date. Endit

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