US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement Tuesday that immigrants stranded in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya were rescued after US military personnel heard their distress signal on July 21.
AFRICOM said one of its units conducting surveillance off the coast of North Africa picked up a distress signal from an inflatable vessel with 131 passengers aboard that was deflating in the sea approximately 80 kilometers northwest of Misrata, Libya.
"After receiving the distress signal via radio, US Air Forces Africa responded to the distress beacon and coordinated with Libyan and Maltese naval authorities for rescue aid." The statement said.
“Our routine surveillance along the North Africa Coast gave us an opportunity to lend a helping hand,” said US Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, AFRICOM. He added that US forces have a long-standing tradition of helping mariners in distress and providing humanitarian assistance.
“US leadership helped achieve unity of effort. International partnership remains important to addressing mutual challenges. In this case, collective contributions helped save lives.” Townsend said.
"This rescue operation, with coordination and assistance from U.S. European Command, was a team effort on behalf of people in distress. This rescue highlights the level of cooperation we've developed not only with our partners in Africa, but more broadly in the region," said Ambassador Andrew Young, deputy to the commander for civilian-military engagement, AFRICOM.
On July 23, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency reported the Libyan Coast Guard rescued all 131 passengers from the distressed migrant vessel and brought them to safety.