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Smugglers toss hundreds of Africans overboard

March 27, 2007|From the Associated Press

SANA, YEMEN — Human smugglers sailing from Somalia to Yemen forced hundreds of illegal immigrants overboard in stormy seas in an effort to escape security forces quickly, officials said Monday. Thirty-one bodies were found, and nearly 90 people remained missing.

Passengers who resisted the smugglers were stabbed or beaten with wooden and steel clubs, then thrown into the water, where some were attacked by sharks, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said, citing the African survivors' reports of Thursday's incident.

"Several recovered bodies showed signs of severe mutilation," the U.N. agency said. "Survivors also reported that several Ethiopian women and at least one Somali were raped and abused by the smugglers during the voyage from Bosaso in Somalia's Puntland region.

"Survivors also alleged that some Yemeni security forces confiscated their money once they reached shore," the agency said.

Yemeni officials said several boats were involved.

The dead and missing came from a single wooden boat that was carrying about 120 people, said an official from the local government in Shabwa province.

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