Hundreds of Libyan refugees are feared dead after an overcrowded ship carrying some 600 people trying to flee Libya sank just outside of the port of Tripoli, world media reported Monday.
The unrest in the country, which began in mid-February, has already claimed thousands of lives, with Muammar Gaddafi's troops maintaining their combat capabilities despite NATO airstrikes against them.
The United Nations' refugee agency said 16 bodies from the sunken boat, including two babies, had been found.
The boat was heading to Italy when it hit rocks and sank. Italian body guards managed to rescue many passengers.
NATO has denied earlier reports that it had left dozens of migrants to die aboard of another vessel.
The UN Security Council adopted a resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya on March 17, paving the way for a military operation against embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi which began two days later. The command of the operation was shifted from a U.S.-led international coalition to NATO in late March.
Public protests in the Middle East and North Africa have recently ousted regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, and led to a civil war in Libya, with protests continuing in Syria and Bahrain.
MOSCOW, May 9 (RIA Novosti)