Italian coast guards rescue 2,000 migrants off of Libya

- Guards threatened by armed men as they rescued migrants between the Libyan coast and Italian island of Lampedusa.

ROME (AA) - More than 2,000 illegal migrants feeling Libya are recovering after being rescued by Italian coastguards from the Mediterranean Sea.

The 2,164 migrants were recovering in Italy on Monday a day after being saved during several rescue operations as they attempted to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa, Italian media reported.

Four men armed with Kalashnikovs were reported to have threatened Italian coast guards on board a patrol boat as they sought to rescue the migrants about 30 kilometers (50 miles) from Tripoli on Sunday.

The rescue operation came after Italy decided to close its embassy and evacuate staff amid the ongoing conflict in Libya.

Italian coast guards also rescued more than 700 migrants on Saturday after they received a distress call by satellite phone from a small boat carrying migrants in difficulty 20 kilometers (30 miles) from Tripoli.

- Dangerous route

More than 300 migrants died in the Mediterranean Sea last week.

About 3,419 people died in the Mediterranean Sea after attempting to reach Europe in 2014, making it the most dangerous route for migrants according to the UN's refugee agency, the UNCHR.

A total of 3,538 people were rescued by Italian vessels in the sea between Libya and Italy in January, compared to 2,171 in the first month of 2014, officials said.

The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Libya has alarmed Italian authorities, with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni saying on Friday that his country was ready to send troops to its former colony to contain militants if there was authorization from the United Nations.

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