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39 drowned as boat carrying illegal immigrants sinks off Aegean coast

(Xinhua)

08:40, September 07, 2012

ANKARA, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- At least 39 people drowned on Thursday when a boat carrying about 100 people who had been promised refuge in Europe by smugglers sank after hitting rocks off the Aegean coast near the town of Ahmetbeyli in Izmir province in western Turkey, local newspaper Today's Zaman reported.

Some 50 survivors, mostly from Iraq and Syria, were able to swim through the Aegean waters to the shore, only 50 meters away, said the report, adding that the captain of the boat and his assistant were rescued and detained.

The boat's passengers, who were allegedly trying to enter European countries illegally, were mostly women and children, said the report.

According to the initial reports, the group had previously made their way to hotels in Izmir where smugglers agreed to take them to Britain.

Search and rescue efforts are under way to retrieve the remaining bodies, said the report.

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