Libya's navy has rescued 57 people on a migrant boat off the coast of the North African country, in an operation that involved a clash with armed smugglers.
Navy spokesman Ayoub Qasim told dpa that the Libyan coastguard acted late on Sunday upon a report from an operations room and rescued a boat carrying 57 all-male migrants, most of them from Nigeria.
Near the migrant boat was another vessel carrying six armed smugglers who shot at the coastguard rescue patrol, Qasim said on Monday.
The patrol returned fire, forcing the militants to flee towards the coast of the western Libyan town of Zuwara, he added.
The rescued migrants noted that the boat was initially carrying 80 people before the militants took all the women and children and left the men on board, according to the spokesman.
‘The rescued migrants were taken to the port of Zawiya Refinery west of Tripoli where they were provided with aid and medical assistance,’ Qasim said.
In recent months, the Libyan coastguard has reported intercepting various vessels carrying hundreds of migrants headed for Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.
Libya descended into chaos following the 2011 revolt that toppled long-time dictator Moamer Gaddafi. The North African country has since emerged as a gateway to Europe for people fleeing war, persecution and poverty in their homelands.
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