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UN: At least 16 drown in migrant shipwreck off Libya coast

CAIRO (AP) — At least 16 migrants trying to reach Europe drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their small dinghy capsized off the coast of Libya, the U.N. migration agency reported Friday, the latest shipwreck to underscore the deadly risks facing those who flee the war-afflicted North African country.

Libyan fishermen spotted the sinking boat late Thursday, said the International Organization for Migration, and managed to pull 22 people from the water, including those from Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Ghana.

Three dead bodies were found floating in the water, including one Syrian man and woman, and at least 13 other migrants were missing and presumed drowned, the IOM said.

The boat had set off from the town of Zliten, east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli, late on Wednesday.

The Libyan Coast Guard said that it had ordered the rescue, and warned the death toll could rise further as search teams scoured the area for more victims.

“So many boats are leaving these days, but autumn is a very difficult season,” said Commodore Masoud Abdal Samad. “When it gets windy, it’s deadly. It changes in an instant.”

In the years since the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, war-torn Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants hoping to get to Europe from Africa and the Middle East. Smugglers often pack desperate families into ill-equipped rubber boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. At least 20,000 people have died in those waters since 2014, according to the IOM.

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