BEN GUERDANE, Tunisia (AFP) - Tunisian rescuers Friday recovered the bodies of at least 14 people from the sea near Libya's maritime border, in an area that has seen many boatloads of illegal migrants capsize.
A child's body was among those plucked from the sea by the Tunisian coastguard and taken to Ben Guerdane, an AFP photographer said.
Hospital official Abdelkarim Chafroud told AFP that 14 bodies were retrieved and rescuers were still trying to recover three more.
Earlier Friday, the defence ministry reported the discovery of two badly decomposed bodies and said in a statement that they had drifted from Libyan territorial waters.
Mired in unrest and political chaos, Libya has been a launchpad for illegal migrants seeking a better life in Europe and who turn to people smugglers to cross the Mediterranean, mainly to Italy.
Since the end of July, dozens of people who have set off on rickety boats from Libya have died at sea, and dozens more have gone missing, presumed drowned.
Chafroud said he believed the victims were Syrians trying to reach Europe. He did not elaborate and officials were unavailable for more details of the rescue.
It was also not clear if there were any survivors.
Last week, Libyan rescuers recovered the bodies of around 170 people after a boat carrying illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa sank at sea, the coastguard said.
Friday's report comes as the International Organisation for Migration warned that unrest in Libya could lead more migrants to risk their lives and take to unseaworthy boats to try to reach Italy.
"IOM is concerned that the number of migrants trying to reach Italy from Libya by sea could increase in the coming weeks, as more people decide to opt for the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to escape ongoing fighting in the Libyan capital," it said in a statement.