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Boats Search Called Off, 150 Presumed Dead

Rescue efforts to find as many as 132 Somalis and Ethiopians, believed drowned, have been called off by Yemeni coastguards. Twenty-six bodies were picked up in the Gulf of Aden on Friday, but since then there has been no trace of those who made the journey from the Horn of Africa, hoping to find employment in the Arabian Peninsula.
The victims were traveling on two boats, which capsized. They were part of a flotilla of four vessels ferrying more than 500 passengers to Yemen.
The four boats were reportedly being operated by smugglers, who were trying to drop off their passengers unbeknownst to Yemeni authorities.
The exact circumstances of the tragedy are unclear, but at some point Yemeni security forces opened fire on the boats. One of the boats overturned as passengers panicked, according to eyewitnesses.
The deaths are the latest in a string of disasters at sea, which have hit would-be migrants from north-eastern Africa bound for Arabia and the Persian Gulf. Thousands are thought to have lost their lives in the narrow waterway that separates Africa from Asia.
Pirates and smugglers operate rickety boats between Somalia and Yemen, charge exorbitant fares for the journey and often force passengers to jump ship at gunpoint, according to international aid agencies.
There are some 80,000 refugees currently registered in Yemen, of whom 75,000 are Somalis, the UNHCR reports.