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Libya says death toll from homemade alcohol reaches 60


TRIPOLI, March 12 (Reuters) - The number of people killed by a batch of poisonous homemade liquor has risen to at least 60, and more than 700 have fallen ill, Libyan officials said on Tuesday, adding that arrests had been made over the sale of the illegal brew.

The consumption and sale of alcohol is banned in the North African country, but it is available on the black market.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Health Minister Nurideen Doghman said 60 people had died from a batch of the homemade brew, known locally as Boukha, that is said to have been tainted with methanol.

"There have more 709 cases of alcohol poisoning," he said.

At a later news conference, Tripoli security official Col. Mahmoud Sharif said 79 people had died.

"This includes 10 women - both Libyan and from other Arab states," he said.

"Six people have been arrested, and an investigation is under way. Two others are believed to be on the run and their names have been given to border officials," he said.

On Monday, the ministry said it had registered 51 deaths and 378 cases of poisoning. Most of the deaths were in Tripoli.

Health ministry officials said some of the patients had to be taken to hospitals outside Tripoli because numbers were rising so fast and clinics in the capital were overstretched.

With its long porous borders, Libya has seen a significant increase in drug and alcohol trafficking since the 2011 war that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi. (Reporting by Ali Shuaib; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Andrew Roche)