Tunisian navy rescues nearly 100 migrants off Jerba

TUNIS Wed Feb 26, 2014 7:51am EST

TUNIS (Reuters) - Tunisian naval forces rescued nearly 100 African migrants off the coast on Wednesday after their vessel got into trouble on route from Libya to Europe, Tunisia's defense ministry said.

The boat was taking on water near the Tunisian island of Jerba when it was intercepted, the ministry said. All 98 migrants onboard were rescued. It was not immediately clear which countries they came from.

African migrants frequently try to reach Europe from Libya's coast, and the southern Italian island of Lampedusa is just 113 km (70 miles) from the coastline of North African neighbor Tunisia.

In October, more than 300 people drowned or were feared dead after a boat packed with migrants sank off Lampedusa, one of the worst disasters in Europe's struggle to cope with heavy immigration.

Libya's weak security forces, ill-equipped and still in training, are often unable to stop smugglers who have profited from the country's chaos since the fall of leader Muammar Gaddafi nearly three years ago.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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