‘Up to 16 Egyptians’ feared killed in clashes with smugglers in Libya
CAIRO – Agence France-Presse
Italian envoy to Libya, Giorgio Starace, German ambassador to Libya, Christian Much, and the head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Libya, Nataliya Apostolova, hold a press conference following a meeting with members of the Government of National Accord (GNA) on April 26, 2016, at the naval base in the capital Tripoli where the GNA established its headquarters - AFP photoEgypt’s Foreign Ministry said on April 27 that up to 16 Egyptian migrants may have been killed in Libya in a clash with people smugglers.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) put the toll at 12 Egyptians and three Libyans.
Libya, which borders Egypt to the west, has slided into chaos and has become a launching pad for illegal migrants who cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
“Preliminary information points to between 12 and 16 Egyptian illegal migrants having been killed in clashes with smuggler gangs,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry said the incident took place in the Libyan town of Bani Walid, a transit point for migrants heading north to the capital Tripoli.
In a statement, UNSMIL Martin Kobler condemned the violence.
“I strongly deplore these terrible killings and call on those with authority on the ground in Bani Walid to ensure that the incidents are investigated and to prevent any further killings,” he said.
Officials in Bani Walid, which is controlled by several groups, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Libya has been contested between three governments and several militias, while the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) affiliate in the North African country has taken over the port city of Sirte.
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants are currently in Libya. Some have settled in the North African country to work, while others are seeking to cross the Mediterranean Sea for Europe.
An estimated 350,000 people have set sail to Italy from Libya since the start of 2014.
Powerful smuggling networks linked to Libya’s numerous armed groups generally control migration flows, and migrants are frequently subjected to abuses.
The United States on April 25 offered its backing for a NATO naval operation off Libya in support of a controversial Italian plan to close the Western Mediterranean migrant route to Europe.