May 18 2015
By Libya Herald staff
Turkey has called the bombing of a freighter off the Libyan coast last week “barbaric”, . . .[restrict]as the row over the incident rumbles on.
Libyan jets struck the Turkish-owned Tuna-1 off the coast on May 10, killing one crew member and wounding three more. The ship was later sailed under warship escort to Turkey.
Beyond the attacks itself, there is little else on which the two sides agree.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the air strikes “barbaric attacks”, insisting the ship was carrying a consignment of plasterboard to Tobruk.
Meanwhile, Libya insists the 4,000 tonne vessel was being used to smuggle 60 Islamic militants to IS-held Derna and that the fighters were offloaded to the port by rubber dingy.
Turkey says the ship was nowhere near Derna but was bombed in international waters as it headed to Tobruk, 200 kilometres to the west and seat of Libya’s recognised parliament.
However, marine tracking data appears to support Libya’s contention that the ship was in coastal waters off Derna, not Tobruk, when it was struck.
The Tuna-1 is registered in the Cook Islands. Marine tracking data confirms that it had journeyed east from a Spanish port after picking up a consignment of plasterboard.
As a route to Tobruk this is plausible. Derna sits on a section of Libya’s coast that juts out north, before falling away south-east to Tobruk.
Libya says four separate warnings were issued to the ship to turn around and be inspected. These it insists were ignored. The air strikes went in just over an hour later.
The recognised government has idecreed that all marine traffic be inspected in Tobruk before heading to other Libyan ports, many controlled by Libya Dawn.
The second officer of the Tuna 1, Zafer Kalayci, was quoted in Turkish media vowing that no warnings were issued prior to the air strikes. “They warned us with bombs” he said.
Two bombs smashed into the ship, killing the third officer and wounding the three crewmen. Tuna-1 then turned and near Cyprus it was reportedly met by a Turkish warship which escorted it to Fethiye in Turkey.
The attack comes five months after Libyan jets bombed Greek-owned tanker Araevo, killing two crew members, in January, also off Derna.
Libya said the Araevo had been acting suspiciously and had no prior clearance to enter Derna. Greece promised an inquiry, but the results of that investigation have yet to be made public.
What the two bombing incidents illustrate is the tension surrounding Derna, which has been under IS control since last summer.
Libya’s recognised government has accused the antigovernment in Tripoli of supporting Islamist militants in both Derna and Benghazi with men and supplies.
With land routes to both cities cut by government forces, the government says militants are being reinforced with men and ammunition by sea, and it has previously bombed vessels in Derna’s small port.
It has also pushed up tension between the recognised government and Turkey, whose president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has appeared to show some political support for Libya Dawn. In October Turkey’s special representative for Libya, Emrullah ?sler, became the first foreign dignitary to met Libya Dawn’s then prime minister Omar Al-Hassi in Tripoli.
However, Turkish diplomats have protested that Ankara subscribes to the international backing for the Thinni government and the parliament that was elected eleven months ago. Its contacts with the antigovernment have been purely to seek a solution and in no way constituted a diplomatic recognition for Libya Dawn.