Somalis stranded in Mediterranean off Libya 'rescued'

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About 90 Somali migrants stranded on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea for more than four days have been rescued, an Italian news agency and relatives say.

One of those on board called the BBC Somali Service on Thursday night to say that the boat's generator had failed and their water supplies had run out.

He said they had left the Libyan capital, Tripoli, hoping to reach the Italian coast.

The migrants were rescued in a joint Libyan and Italian operation.

Earlier this month, 54 people died of dehydration while trying to sail from Libya to Italy in an inflatable boat.

Desperate call

The rescued Somali migrants have been returned to Libya, Italy's Ansa news agency reports.

Relatives of those aboard the boat confirmed to the BBC that they had been found.

In his call to the BBC's Somalia Service on Thursday, passenger Abdi Amin Omar said: "We are in a terrible situation."

"We have been floating out to sea now for four days and we don't know where we are heading or exactly where we are now. All we can see is the dark sea," he told one of the BBC producers who phoned him back.

Migrants from Libya arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa on 9 April 9 2011 Many African migrants die each year trying to make the dangerous crossing to Europe from Libya

"We desperately need help. Some of us are badly injured and there are several vulnerable pregnant women."

Mr Omar said they had tried to contact the coastguard and were given another number to call, but that there was no answer on that number.

He warned that the phone's battery was about to run out of power - the satellite phone line went dead during the conversation.

Hundreds of Somali migrants regularly try to make the dangerous crossing by sea to seek a better life in Europe.

More than one million Somalis have fled the country since 1991 when Siad Barre was toppled as president and the country has been wracked by fighting ever since.

With no central authority for more than 20 years, piracy and lawlessness have also flourished.

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