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Published: Tuesday August 19, 2014 MYT 8:56:19 PM
Updated: Tuesday August 19, 2014 MYT 8:57:43 PM

Algeria arrests 200 Syrian would-be migrants near Libyan border

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria has arrested 200 Syrians who had been hoping to reach Italy with the help of Libyan Islamists who had promised to smuggle them by boat, a security source said on Tuesday.

Algeria, like other countries in North Africa, is worried that militant Islamists are exploiting Libya's chaos to smuggle weapons, train fighters and send migrants to Europe - possibly to bring in cash to fund their operations.

Algeria has closed its land border with Libya and reinforced its military presence in the south.

Libya is a major transit gate for migrants from sub-Saharan countries and refugees from conflict zones such as Syria or Sudan. Italy says more than 100,000 migrants have reached its shores by boat this year.

The Syrians, including 20 children and 10 women, were stopped in the village of Oued Laâlemga near the Libyan border on Monday, said the source who asked not to be named.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Editing by Ulf Laessing and Alison Williams)

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