Italian fishing boat involved in Libyan shootout docks in Sicily

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The Sicilian fishing boats involved earlier this week in a shootout with Libyan patrol boats, injuring the captain of one of the Italian vessels, docked in the Sicilian port of Mazara del Vallo.

The boats operating out of the Sicilian port of Mazara del Vallo were fishing some 30 to 40 nautical miles off the Libyan coastal town of Misrata when a Libyan coastguard vessel fired warning shots against them.

Giuseppe Giacalone, the captain of one of the boats, was “slightly injured” and transferred to an Italian navy vessel, the mayor of Mazara del Vallo, Salvatore Quinci, told Reuters, confirming reports in Italian media.

An handout photo made available by the crew of Giuseppe Giacalone and issued on 08 May 2021, shows the commander of the ship Aliseo Giuseppe Giacalone, who was hit in the forehead by flying glass after Libyan machine-gun fire allegedly smashed his cabin window, posing as he arrives at Mazara Del Vallo harbour, southern Italy, 08 May 2021. The intervention of the Italian Navy, which came to the rescue of the fishing boat with the Libeccio frigate and a helicopter, convinced the Libyan military to release the boat. EPA-EFE/MAX FIRRERI

On arrival in Italy, Girolamo Giacalone officer of the ‘Aliseo’ fishing boat,  was quoted by ANSA as saying that  three armed soldiers got on board and then they took our commander aboard their patrol boat”.  He added it was a miracle no one was killed and returning to those waters to work is impossible, as they don’t feel safe at all .

There have been frequent tensions between Italy and Libya over Italian fishing activity off the North African coast.

Last September a group of Italian sailors were seized by Libyan patrol boats while fishing in the Mediterranean, accused by local authorities of operating in Libya’s territorial waters. They were released some three months later.

“This is the umpteenth attack by the Libyan government in Tripoli,” Quinci told Reuters.

The southern Mediterranean fishing grounds have been disputed since 2005, when Libya’s then ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, unilaterally extended Libyan territorial waters to 74 nautical miles offshore from 12.

Enrico Letta, leader of Italy’s co-ruling Democratic Party, tweeted that the latest incident was “inconceivable” and Mario Draghi’s government “must not be satisfied by apologies or vague explanations” from Libya.

Libya’s new unity government took office in March from two warring administrations that had ruled eastern and western regions, completing a smooth transition of power after a decade of violent chaos.

Main Photo: The fishing boat Aliseo arrives at the port of Mazara Del Vallo in Sicily, Italy, 08 May 2021. The vessel was reportedly attacked by a Libyan military patrol boat two days earlier in international waters off the coast of Tripoli. The captain of the vessel reported some minor wounds following gunshots. EPA-EFE/MAX FIRRERI