Libya says 1,425 migrants turned back over two days

Migrants are rescued during a MOAS operation off the coast of Libya August 18, 2016 in this handout picture courtesy of the Italian Red Cross released on August 19, 2016. Yara Nardi/Italian Red Cross/Handout via REUTERS

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan patrols intercepted some 1,425 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe over the past two days, a naval spokesman said on Friday.

Ayoub Qassem said about 1,050 migrants on seven inflatable boats were turned back early on Wednesday. Most were from sub-Saharan African countries and about one third were women and children, he said.

On Thursday two more rubber boats were intercepted with about 300 people on board, as well as three small wooden boats carrying a total of about 75 people.

Qassem said all the boats were found near the western coastal city of Sabratha, the most common point of departure for migrants attempting to cross from Libya during recent months.

Most migrants trying to reach Europe by boat across the central Mediterranean head for Italy from Libya, where years of political turmoil and armed conflict have allowed migrant smuggling networks to flourish.

More than 120,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by boat so far this year, a slight increase over 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Many of those who make it into international waters are picked up by European rescue ships, while Libyan authorities say they have turned back more than 11,000 migrants.

As of Sept. 6, nearly 3,200 migrants had perished attempting to cross the central Mediterranean, according to IOM data.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Catherine Evans