18 African migrants drown off Yemeni coast


Sanaa (Yemen) : At least 18 Somalis and Ethiopians drowned off Yemen Monday, and 73 were still missing after smugglers forced them to jump overboard from two boats, rescuers said.

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The smugglers reportedly ordered 236 migrants to swim ashore when the boats approached the end of their trip off the southern Yemeni town of Ahwar, around 220 km east of the southern port city of Aden.

Thirteen bodies were recovered and buried by teams of a local humanitarian organization, and five bodies were buried by fishermen, they said.

About 145 people were rescued, according to officials at a refugee reception centre in Ahwar.

The number of the dead or survivors was not immediately available. The two boats transferred the migrants from Bosasso in northern Somalia.

Many African migrants, mostly from strife-torn Somalia, try to reach Yemen, which they see as a gateway to the oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

Hundreds of people perish every year in the perilous exodus that takes thousands of desperate Somalis and Ethiopians to Yemen in small boats run by smugglers operating from Somali ports.

More than 33,000 people, the vast majority of them Somalis, have fled across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen this year. At least 230 people have been confirmed dead and an estimated 365 went missing as result of crossings gone wrong, often as a result of smugglers forcing the migrants overboard.