150 migrants freed from Libya detention centre in raid on traffickers

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Over 150 migrants were freed from a Libyan detention centre after local authorities raided a secret prison used by people traffickers on Sunday, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Security forces freed at least 156 African migrants, including 15 women and children, from the makeshift prison in a south eastern Libyan city of Kufra.

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Among the group were migrants from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. After the raid, they were transferred to a shelter where they received food, clothes and blankets, according to AP.

At least six traffickers were arrested during the raid. They were referred to local prosecutors for further investigation, the Kufra security bureau said.

The raid took place after a migrant escaped the makeshift prison last week and reported the traffickers to police, Al Jazeerareported.

The raids came only a day before the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) announced 1,315 migrants had been intercepted and returned to Libya between 16 and 22 February.

Those returned were sent to the war-torn country’s western cities of Zuwara and Subartha, as well as the capital Tripoli.

According to the UN agency, a total of 12 dead bodies were recovered while a five people remain missing.

READ: Turkey arrests 5 Russians, Libyan near border with Syria

More than 190 migrants were rescued by two separate vessels, the Aita Mari and the Vos Triton, on the 19 and 20 February respectively.

The IOM added that 3,600 people, including an estimated 270 women and 187 children have been returned to the North African country following failed migration attempts, since the start of the year.

Libya has been a major transit point for African and Arab migrants seeking to travel to Europe, since the start of the country’s bloody civil war in 2011.

Traffickers have been able to exploit the resulting chaos and have sent thousands of migrants to their deaths in rubber boats that often fail before carrying their human cargo across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

The North African state was plunged into the decade-long struggle following the NATO-backed uprising that led to the ousting of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Crisis and chaos continue to plague Libya and on Sunday the country’s Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha survived an assassination attempt on his convoy.

The minister was reportedly fired on with machine guns from a pickup truck while he was on his way to his residence in Janzur, west of Tripoli.

He said one of the assailants was killed and two others were injured, but did not give further details, Anadolu Agency reported.

READ: Death threats to MPs, Aguila Saleh holds parallel parliamentary session in Benghazi

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