Mauritania Rescues 24 Migrants at Sea

From the Associated Press

Two dozen hungry, thirsty Africans were rescued from the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, 11 days after their Europe-bound vessel foundered far from Mauritania's shore.

One of the passengers said they had been drinking seawater for a week.

"They were determined to reach Europe with this little boat, but it brought them together for a collective suicide," said Hacen Ould Ahmed, the navy commander whose sailors found the migrants' boat about 100 miles offshore.

More than 1,000 Africans -- some driven by hope for jobs, others escaping their continent's many wars -- have died over the last four months while trying to sail in small wooden boats from Mauritania to Spain's faraway Canary Islands, according to Mauritania's Red Crescent branch.

The haggard-looking group Friday included citizens of the West African nations of Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia, among the poorest countries in the world.

The group will be turned over to Mauritania's immigration authorities, Ahmed said.

Prime Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubakar said Thursday that authorities arrested 3,900 migrants in 2005. About 1,200 have been detained so far this year, he said.

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