At least 20 die as migrant boat sinks off Tunisia

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TUNIS (Reuters) - At least 20 African migrants died when their boat sank off Tunisia on Thursday as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to the Italian island of Lampedusa, a Tunisian security official said.

The coastguard rescued five people and was searching for about 20 others who were still unaccounted for, the official told Reuters.

The coastline near the Tunisian port city of Sfax has become a major departure point for people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East and searching for a better life in Europe.

"The boat sank about six miles from the coast of Sfax. Twenty bodies were recovered, five others were rescued, and all are from sub-Saharan Africa," the security official, Ali Ayari, said.

Around 45 people were on the boat when it sank, he added.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Heavens)