By Ajnadin Mustafa.
Tripoli, 26 August 2016:
An international migrant rescue ship was attacked and boarded in international waters, Medecins Sans Frontiers has revealed today.
The assault on the MSF’s Bourbon Argos was made 24 miles north of the Libyan coast on 17 August but the charity has only now revealed details.
According to MSF, at 9.15am an unidentified launch approached their vessel at high speed and opened fire from 400 or 500 metres away. Some rounds struck the bridge. The crew took refuge in a safe room as the attackers prepared to board the Bourbon Argos, which has no migrants aboard at the time.
The intruders spent some 50 minutes on the ship before leaving, having apparently taken nothing nor damaged any equipment. The charity did not say if any attempt was made to break into the safe room. It is unclear how many MSF crew were aboard.
“Although we don’t know the identity of the attackers or their motivation, our initial assessment of the facts shows that they were professional and well-trained,” said Stefano Argenziano, MSF operations’ coordinator. “This was a serious and worrying attack, with shooting toward our boat which could have put our staff in acute physical danger.”
Libyan naval forces in Tripoli have made no comment on the incident. The EU’s Operation Sophia has been arresting suspected people smugglers who have been taken to Italy for trial.
Libya’s territorial waters are recognised internationally to extend for 12 miles. However Muammar Qaddafi once claimed that the whole of the Gulf of Sirte as Libyan territory.