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Ms. Fleming said the U.N. agency could not confirm the account, which she said came from survivors who had been imprisoned by the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan leader. The Guardian did not provide details about the location or condition of the survivors.

Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim suggested European countries had bought a wave of illegal immigration upon themselves by supporting NATO airstrikes on his country.

“For years and years … we worked very hard to prevent illegal migration to Europe, and we succeeded,” he said Monday. “But now, because of the NATO aggression against our country and because our coastal border guard is being hit daily … we are unable to deal with this situation, and that is why Europe is being flooded with illegal immigration,” Mr. Ibrahim said. “We cannot be the guards of Europe at this moment.”

Aid groups have suggested that rather than preventing migrants from reaching Europe as it did previously, Libya now may be encouraging many to leave.

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said some of those arriving on Lampedusa recently reported being forced onto boats by Libyan soldiers.

Associated Press writer Alessandra Rizzo in Rome; Diaa Hadid in Tripoli, Libya; and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.