Italian coast guard starts to rescue at least 1,000 migrants

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Italy's coast guard is rescuing at least 1,000 migrants stranded in the sea between Europe and North Africa in an operation that began Sunday.

The latest rescue effort involved a plane, four coast guard ships, two tugboats and a navy vessel, according to Agence- France-Presse. Meanwhile, local media reports say the migrants had been aboard 12 boats and had been taken to Italy.

According to Italian officials, men with Kalashnikov rifles approached the coast guard in a speedboat from Libya and ordered the the return a boat that had been holding migrants. Some of the gunmen then jumped onto the boat and took it with them, according to authorities.

More than 300 people died last week trying to travel across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe, a journey that has already claimed the lives of 3,500 people last year, according to the UNHCR. The agency added that more than 200,000 people were rescued during the same period.

RUNDOWN SHOWS:
1. Mediterranean Ocean
2. Planes and vessels used in rescue operation
3. Migrant boats on the ocean
4. Men with AK47s in speedboat
5. Men boarding inflatable boats
6. Number of migrant deaths and rescues in 2014

VOICEOVER (in English):

Italy's coast guard went to rescue at least 1,000 migrants in difficulty in the sea between Europe and North Africa on Sunday.

AFP reports the latest rescue effort involved a plane, four coast guard ships, two tugboats and a navy vessel.

Local media said the migrants had been aboard 12 boats and had been taken to Italy.

Italian officials said during the rescue, men with Kalashnikov rifles approached in a speedboat from Libya and ordered the coastguard to return a boat that had been holding migrants.

Some of the gunmen then jumped onto the boat and took it with them.

The UNHCR says almost 3,500 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe in 2014, while more than 200,000 people were rescued during the same period.

SOURCES:
Reuters, BBC, Al Jazeera
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/15/us-italy-migrants-idUSKBN0LJ0L220150215

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31481792

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2015/02/italy-begins-rescue-operation-1000-migrants-sea-150215183352780.html