TRIPOLI - Libyan naval forces denied charges from a rescue organization that one of their crew had attacked a migrant boat packed with around 150 people, causing some to fall into the sea and at least four to drown, a spokesman said.
Some reports said that with the missing the death toll could rise into the 20s.
The Germany-based humanitarian group Sea-Watch said on Friday a speedboat labelled "Libyan Coast Guard" attacked a migrant boat packed with some 150 migrants, beating them with sticks. Four bodies were later recovered.
Migrant rescues are often complicated in Libya, where the U.N.-backed Tripoli government struggles to impose its authority, coast guard operations are under-equipt and police units are run by some of the competing armed brigades.
Sea-Watch, one of several non-governmental organizations operating vessels off the coast of Libya, said the speedboat swooped in just as they were about to go to the aid of the overcrowded rubber boat in the early hours of Friday.
The spokesman for the naval forces in Tripoli, Ayoub Qassem denied the allegations about an armed attack on the Sea-Watch operation and said a patrol had only boarded one vessel to check why it was in Libyan waters.