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Bodies of 18 migrants found on boat off Lampedusa

The Italian navy has found the bodies of 18 migrants on a dinghy, south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. More than 3,500 people trying to make the perilous trip from Africa to Europe have been rescued since Friday.

The bodies of 18 migrants were discovered by the Italian navy on Sunday aboard a dinghy, south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

The boat, which was en route to Italy, was spotted by Italian navy ship Sirio as it came into difficulty. Seventy-three survivors were also found alongside the 18 dead.

Since Friday, more than 3,500 migrants have been rescued by the navy, coast guard and merchant marine in the area of the Mediterranean between Sicily and the Libyan and Tunisian coasts.

Figures released last month showed that over 93,000 migrants had been rescued in the area since the start of this year.

Major surveillance operation

For months, the Italian navy has watched over the Mediterranean as part of a large-scale naval deployment known as "Mare Nostrum." The operation was launched following two major shipwrecks off Lampedusa in October 2013 that left more than 400 migrants dead.

The majority of migrants who have made the dangerous and often deadly journey across the Mediterranean come from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria. However, many have also arrived from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, more than 100,000 migrants have landed in Italy in 2014 alone.

ksb/tj (dpa, AFP)