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10 Die in Sinking of Immigrant Boat Near Sicily


Italian authorities are questioning five men believed to have organized an attempt to smuggle more than 100 illegal immigrants into the country that ended in tragedy when their boat sank.

Officials say they found the five, believed to be Libyans, on Italy's Mediterranean island of Lampedusa after rescuing about 70 survivors. Ten others died and 40 more are missing after the boat capsized. A witness said the immigrants abruptly moved to one side of the boat as a rescue vessel approached.

Lampedusa is a major destination for thousands of illegal immigrants trying to reach European Union countries. They frequently pay unscrupulous gangs in North Africa thousands of dollars for transport to Italy in makeshift boats.

Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Amato called the deaths a crime and urged strong action against the criminal organizations responsible.

Italy usually detains illegal immigrants and sends them back to their home countries unless they can prove they are political refugees.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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