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Smugglers kill 22 African migrants on Libya beach

Killings occured following an exchange of fire between the smugglers after the migrants refused to board a boat
A body of a drowned immigrant is seen covered in plastic after it washed ashore in the Andalus district of the capital Tripoli (AFP)

People smugglers have killed 22 African migrants on a beach in western Libya, a security source said on Wednesday.

The migrants were set to embark from Sabrata beach, 70km west of Tripoli, in a perilous attempt to cross the Mediterranean, the source said.

They were killed after refusing to board their boat due to bad weather, the source added.

The Libyan Red Crescent confirmed the killings had taken place over the weekend, but was unable to provide further details.

The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration said on Tuesday it had heard reports of the deaths.

"There seems to have been an exchange of fire between the smugglers, which resulted in the death of 22 migrants," it said.

Six years since a revolution and NATO intervention that toppled the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has become a key departure point for clandestine migration to Europe.

Smugglers organise frequent crossings from western Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa, a 300km trip.

The IOM said 521 immigrants died in the Mediterranean from January 1 to March 5, 2017.

Another 20,000 were able to reach the European coasts during the same period.

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