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German army begins refugee rescue mission in the Mediterranean

Berlin has sent two ships to the Mediterranean to rescue refugees trafficked from Africa. The ships' doctors have already begun treating migrants who were injured at sea.

Marines in German ships "Hessen" and "Berlin" (pictured above) began their mission to help migrants at sea and were involved in their first rescue operation on Wednesday, the army said. The two ships had left the port of Crete on Tuesday and were planning to participate in relief exercises between the Libyan and Sicilian coasts.

The "Hessen" received a mayday call shortly after midnight on May 6 and sailed together with the "Berlin" towards a spot around 200 nautical miles away from Sicily, where a 50-meter-long boat that had lost its capacity to maneuver, had been floating for 12 days.

The 100-odd migrants in the boat, including 35 women, were evacuated to the "Monte Cimone," a ship belonging to the Italian government. German doctors, who arrived shortly, helped treat a pregnant woman, apart from administering aid to dozens of others.

According to Italian authorities, over 650 immigrants were saved solely on Tuesday. In a separate incident, around 30 migrants reached the Italian coast, also on Tuesday, bringing the total number of refugees rescued in the past two days to 1,700.

Italian marines this year saved the lives of more than 5,800 migrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, who crossed the Mediterranean on flimsy boats to reach Europe. EU nations recently intensified their rescue operations after

more than 1,000 travelers drowned off the Libyan coast last fortnight.

mg/bw (AFP, epd)

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