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Libyan Coast Guard picks up nearly 500 migrants in region surrounding Tripoli

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Tripoli (Reuters) – Libya’s Coast Guard said late on Thursday it had picked up 493 migrants on six inflatable boats in six operations in a week in areas northeast and northwest of Tripoli, the capital.

The migrants, including 28 women and five children, are from sub-Saharan, Arab and Asian countries. They were all moved to detention centres run by the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord, Coast Guard spokesman Ayoub Qassem said. 

Libya’s western coast is a main departure point for migrants fleeing war and poverty and hoping for new lives in Europe, though the number of crossings has dropped sharply since July 2017.

The migrants were taken to various detention centres: 173 to Komas, some 120 km (74.6 miles) east of Tripoli; 166 to Tripoli; 50 to Zawiya, and 104 to Zuwarah, both towns that are west of Tripoli, Qassem said.

Earlier on Thursday, a Sudanese migrant died at the Abu Sittah naval base in Tripoli from a bullet wound, hours after being returned to shore by the Libyan Coast Guard. There was no immediate comment on the incident from the Coast Guard.

Libya plunged into chaos following the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with many armed groups and two administrations vying for power.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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