Africom heads migrant rescue off Libya


Migrants stranded in the Mediterranean off Libya were rescued earlier this month after US military personnel heard their distress signal.

A US Africa Command (Africom) unit conducting surveillance off the North African coast picked up a distress signal from an inflatable vessel with 131 people aboard deflating north-west of Misrata.

After receiving the distress signal by radio, US Air Forces Africa responded to the distress beacon and co-ordinated with Libyan and Maltese naval authorities for rescue aid.

“Routine surveillance along the North Africa coast gave us an opportunity to lend a helping hand,” said US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander, Africom. “US forces have a tradition of helping mariners in distress and providing humanitarian assistance.”

On July 23, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency reported the Libyan Coast Guard rescued 131 passengers from the distressed migrant vessel and brought them to safety.

“This rescue operation, with co-ordination and assistance from US European Command, was a team effort.  The rescue highlights the co-operation we’ve developed not only with partners in Africa but more broadly in the region,” said Ambassador Andrew Young, deputy to the commander for civilian-military engagement, Africom.