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The Italian coast guard has confirmed that six migrants drowned off the coast of Sicily after attempting a dangerous passage from Africa.

The victims, all aged under 30, were on an 18-metre boat carrying 100 migrants which ran aground early Saturday morning near the city of Catania.

Coastguard captain Roberto D’Arrigo described it as an “absolutely anomalous event” as a migrant boat had never previously put into Catania.

“The timing and the location makes us think that they had probably lost their route,” he said. We are pretty much convinced that this was probably a mistake by those who were at the helm of the boat,” D’Arrigo added.

The migrants were mainly from Syria and Egypt. Most managed to reach the shore but the six who drowned were apparently unable to swim.

According to the United Nations refugee agency, almost 8,000 migrants and asylum seekers landed on the coasts of southern Italy in the first half of the year.

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