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Lebanese military finds five bodies from sunk boat

TRIPOLI, LEBANON (AP) – The Lebanese military yesterday recovered the bodies of five migrants whose boat carrying nearly 60 people sank the night before, raising the death toll to six, state media reported.

The National News Agency said the five bodies were found near a small island off the coast of the northern city of Tripoli. It earlier reported that eight bodies were recovered but later lowered the number to five.

Several survivors told local TV stations that the Lebanese navy is to blame for the incident.

They said a military ship rammed their migrant boat twice, damaging it, in an effort to force it to return to the coast.

Commander of the Lebanese navy Colonel Haitham Dinnawi told reporters the migrant boat was old and only capable of carrying six people. He added that no precautionary measures were taken on the boat and no one was wearing life vests.

Lebanese Navy Commander Colonel Haitham Dinnawi points to a damaged part of the Lebanese navy boat. PHOTO: AP

Dinnawi blamed the captain of the migrant boat for manoeuvering to avoid being forced to return back to shore and blamed him for ramming into one of two navy vessels. He showed photographs of the damage on the side and back of one navy boat, adding that the migrant boat sank within seconds after the accident.

“It was a crime to take people on such a boat,” Dinnawi said, adding that it was manufactured in 1974 and carrying 15 times its capacity. He said search operations are still ongoing for the missing adding that they have recovered the bodies of six people so far, including five yesterday and one on Saturday.

Survivor Mustafa al-Jundi told The Associated Press that the navy tried to stop the migrant boat but it kept sailing.

“They rammed into us and made us sink then moved away,” said al-Jundi whose two sisters are still missing. He said the Lebanese military returned about 90 minutes later and rescued them.

Earlier yesterday, the Lebanese military announced that 47 people were rescued and the body of a young girl was recovered.