Boat carrying migrants

Libya’s Navy said on Thursday that the North African Nation’s Coastguard intercepted 156 migrants on a rubber boat.

They were intercepted off its Coast East of Tripoli, the latest operation amid a surge in such perilous journeys to Europe.

The migrants were stopped on Wednesday off the coast of Khoms, the navy said in a statement.

Ten children are among the intercepted migrants, who are natives of Sudan, Mali, Ghana, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger and Cameron, the navy said, adding that they were handed over to the anti-illegal immigration authorities.

The rescue operation comes two days after a Spanish NGO accused the Libyan coastguard of leaving two women and a child to die at sea after a rescue operation that involved 158 migrants.

The three migrants were found floating near a wrecked dinghy, only one of whom was alive, the Proactiva Open Arms charity said.

Following the claims, Libyan navy spokesman Ayoub Qasim issued a Facebook statement, saying the coastguard saves the lives.

“Over the past years, the coastguard rescued more than 80,000 migrants,’’ he said.

“All the disasters that have happened have been caused by the human traffickers who only care about profits and the presence of such irresponsible non-governmental organisations in the region,’’ he added.

Libya descended into chaos in 2011 after its leader Moamer Gaddafi was toppled in an armed revolt and has since become a major transit route for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea.

Rival armed militias and political bodies have vied for dominance and control of the country’s oil reserves under competing governments, two in Tripoli and one in the eastern city of al-Bayda.