Bodies found in Spain's N.Africa waters likely brings migrant drownings to 14

by Reuters
Saturday, 15 February 2014 15:40 GMT

(Adds second body discovered)

MADRID, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Spain's Civil Guard said on Saturday it had found the bodies of two African migrants in the sea off the country's Ceuta enclave, likely raising to 14 the number of people who drowned trying to swim to the territory from neighbouring Morocco last week.

The migrants who drowned on Feb. 6 were part of a group of around 200 who tried to cross the border. Some attempted to climb the fortified frontier fence while others jumped into the sea to swim around a man-made breakwater separating Moroccan and Spanish waters.

Spain said on Thursday its border police had fired rubber bullets in an attempt to push them back.

The European Commission said on Friday it would ask Spain to explain why police fired rubber bullets, while the Spanish opposition has call for National Police director Arsenio Fernandez de Mesa to step down over the incident.

The bodies of eight men and one woman have already been recovered from Moroccan waters, and three by Spanish authorities.

The bodies found on Saturday were of sub-Saharan men aged between 20 and 30, and their deaths may be related to the events of last week, Spanish authorities said on Saturday.

"The Ceuta Civil Guard have found at 12:30 this morning on the beach of Almadraba, five metres (16 feet) from the shore, the dead body of a sub-Saharan immigrant. It is the second body found today," the government said in a statement.

The Spanish territories of Melilla and Ceuta, both along Morocco's Mediterranean coastline, are magnets for sub-Saharan Africans and others, including Syrian refugees, trying to reach Europe.

Hundreds of hopeful immigrants camp out in areas just outside both cities and frequently make mass attempts to climb the triple fences lined with razor wire or to swim along the coast.

Every year a few thousand immigrants make it into the enclaves. (Reporting by Paul Day and Raquel Castillo; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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