Rome – A ship carrying African migrants to Europe caught fire and capsized Thursday off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, killing at least 114 people as hundreds were dumped into the sea, officials said. More than 150 people were rescued but about the same number were still unaccounted for.
It was one of the deadliest recent accidents in the perilous Mediterranean Sea crossing that thousands of African migrants make every year. Smugglers charge thousands of dollars a head to slip people into Europe aboard overcrowded, barely seaworthy fishing boats, providing no life vests or other safety features.
Russian diplomats ordered to leave Libya after attack
Moscow – Russia ordered its diplomats to leave Libya on Thursday after unidentified gunmen tried to storm the Russian Embassy in Tripoli late Wednesday.
No Russians were injured in the attack, which included rocket and automatic weapons fire, and the attackers were repelled by embassy security personnel. But the attackers managed to scale the compound’s walls on three sides and pull down the Russian flag. Unconfirmed reports said one Libyan may have been killed.
The attack is the second in less than two years on the Russian compound. In February 2012, Syrians and Libyans launched a similar assault to protest Russia’s blocking of a U.N. resolution condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Ecuador authorizes drilling in Yasuni National Park
Quito, Ecuador – Lawmakers in Ecuador on Thursday authorized the extraction of oil from Yasuni National Park, a pristine Amazon reserve. After a 10-hour debate, a loyalist congress approved President Rafael Correa’s plan by a 108 to 25 margin.
Correa in August announced that he was abandoning a unique plan to persuade rich countries to pay Ecuador not to drill in the Yasuni, saying wealthy nations had failed to pledge enough money.
It’s unclear when drilling would begin.