NATO has denied leaving "61 African migrants to die of hunger and thirst," as Sunday's Guardian headline alleged. The Guardian's Jack Shenker had written from the Italian island of Lampedusa, where over 400 migrants arrived via a crash boat landing on Sunday, that a "boat of 72 migrants which set sail from Tripoli on 25 March" were "condemned to death by a combination of bad luck, bureaucracy and the apparent indifference of European military forces who had the opportunity to attempt a rescue" the vessel, full of Ethiopians, Nigerians, Eritreans, Ghanaians, and Sudanese, "used the boat's satellite phone to call [Eritrean priest Moses] Zerai in Rome, who in turn contacted the Italian coastguard," which determined the boat's location "down to about 60 miles off Tripoli." Though a military helicopter soon arrived to "[lower] bottles of water and packets of biscuits" and indicate "to passengers that they should hold their position until a rescue boat came to help," no help was forthcoming.
According to the account given to the Guardian, as the supplies were exhausted, the migrants died one by one, and one point passing "so close" to a NATO aircraft carrier "that it would have been impossible to be missed," but receiving no help. "On 10 April, the boat washed up on a beach near the Libyan town of Zlitan near Misrata. Of the 72 migrants who had embarked at Tripoli, only 11 were still alive," one dying shortly after landfall and another dying while detained by Qaddafi's forces, who held all of the survivors in prison for four days.