Lebanese cabinet orders military to investigate capsizing of deadly migrant boat

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s cabinet on Tuesday ordered a military court to investigate the capsizing of a migrant boat after it collided with a pursuing navy ship, killing at least six and dozens of people. disappeared.

The boat carrying Lebanese and Syrian migrants sank off the coast near the impoverished northern city of Tripoli on Saturday evening. The UN refugee agency said around 80 people were on board, including men, women and children.

Some 45 people were rescued and six bodies recovered.

After a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Information Minister Ziad Makary announced the investigation order and also said Lebanon would seek international help to save the wreckage of the dinghy.

Lebanon is in the midst of an economic collapse that has plunged much of the population into poverty, leading increasing numbers of people to attempt the perilous sea journey to Europe, mostly via Cyprus.

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Many of those on the ship were from Tripoli, where funeral processions for six victims turned into public outbursts of anger against the authorities.

Several of the survivors said a Lebanese military vessel rammed the migrants’ boat, sinking it.

The military said the boat left the Lebanese coast illegally and the captain of the boat tried to evade capture when the collision occurred.

Lebanon’s military tribunal is made up of members of the military, and observers have in the past raised concerns about its independence.

Army Commander Joseph Aoun, the head of military intelligence and the head of the Lebanese navy attended Tuesday’s cabinet session and gave a ‘detailed presentation of the facts about what happened with the boat’ , according to a tweet from the Lebanese presidency.

He also said that Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a billionaire tycoon from Tripoli, had “great confidence in the command of the army and we are sure that he is keen to preserve the lives of all Lebanese and the credibility of the investigations”.

(Reporting by Timour Azhari; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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