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69 Killed as Boat Capsizes Off Djibouti

April 07, 2006|From the Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — A boat ferrying passengers to a traditional festival overturned Thursday off the coast of Djibouti, killing at least 69 people, an official said.

Ismael Tani, an advisor to President Ismail Umar Guelleh of Djibouti, said the craft overturned in the harbor after leaving port about noon and was probably overloaded.

Tani said officials believed that more than 200 people were on board and feared that the death toll would rise.

A U.S. public affairs officer with the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, based in Djibouti, said the United States had offered assistance to the government.

"They asked us if we had any divers who could provide assistance," said Capt. Bob Everdeen. He said U.S. divers had reported to the Djiboutian navy headquarters.

Djibouti, a nation of about 486,000 people, is a former French territory and host to the only U.S. military base in sub-Saharan Africa.

The tragedy came nearly two months after 10 American members of a counter-terrorism force were killed when two transport helicopters crashed in the Gulf of Aden, near the northern coastal town of Ras Siyyan in Djibouti. Two crew members survived.

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