A boat carrying migrants off the coast of Libya was attacked by armed men from another vessel. According to the German non-governmental agency, Sea-Watch, at least four migrants were killed and another 15 are missing. Arriving in a vessel bearing the insignia of the Libyan coastguard, the assailants beat the migrants with clubs, prompting many to jump into the sea.
Sea-Watch said that the coastguard of Italy had sent a Sea-Watch rescue ship and an oil tanker to provide aid to a dinghy in distress in international waters, approximately 14 nautical miles off Libya early today. While the rescue was unfolding, the attacker arrived and sought to steal the motor on the dinghy, said a spokesman for Sea-Watch. The assailants, who spoke only Arabic, beat the migrants and caused them to panic and fall into the sea.
Sea-Watch was able to rescue 120 out of the estimated 150 people onboard. Four bodies were recovered by Sea-Watch, but other bodies that were seen floating in the sea were unrecoverable. Sea-Watch estimates that between 15 and 25 people are missing. The Italian coastguard confirmed that the SeaWatch2 vessel rescued 120 people before dawn today, but provided no further details. According to United Nations estimates, at least 3,654 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year.
Migrants continue to attempt transversing the Mediterranean despite worsening weather conditions that come as winter approaches. More than 2,400 migrants were rescued off Libya in total since October 16. The Italian interior ministry declared earlier this week that more than 145,000 migrants had landed in Italy so far this year, a figure similar to that of the previous two years