Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli, 11 May 2015:
A Turkish-owned vessel was attacked by Libyan airforce planes today – supposedly because it was thought to be heading . . .[restrict]to Derna – and the third officer, a Turkish national, was killed and several crew members injured. The Turkish government has protested to Libyan diplomats at both the embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul.
The Turks say that the dry cargo vessel, the Tuna-1, was sailing yesterday from Spain to Tobruk with a cargo of plasterboard. A statement from the Turkish foreign affairs ministry said that vessel was first shelled when it was 13 miles off the Libyan coast and still in international waters.
When Tuna-1 changed course and headed out to sea, it was then attacked twice by warplanes.
The Libyan army has however denied that the vessel was in international waters, insisting that the freighter was shelled when it was approaching Daesh-held Derna and was within ten miles of the coast. Military spokesman Major Mohamed Hejazi said that the Tuna-1 had ignored a warning to approach no further. The army had then opened fire with artillery.
He confirmed the air attacks but denied that the ship had been on course for Tobruk. Hejazi insisted that Libya had been within its rights to attack cargo vessel.
Marinetraffic.com, a web site that tracks shipping movements, seems to bear out the Libyan version of events. It appears to show that the Tuna-1 was directly on course away from the port at Derna, after she turned away and headed northeast toward Crete.
A Turkish diplomat however told the Libya Herald that it was known “well in advance” that the freighter was going to Tobruk. Agents had been ready to receive her cargo.
The government in Ankara today said: “ We strongly denounce this heinous attack on a civilian ship in international waters and we condemn those who carried out the attack”.
It demanded that the Tuna-1 and any other Turkish ship in the region should be protected and that the Libyan government take action against those behind the attack. It said that it would be seeking compensation and raising the incident with the relevant international organisations.
“This attack is a new example of the violations of international law” it said, “perpetrated by those who have been targeting and bombing the civilian infrastructure in Libya, including airports and seaports.”
It continued that the attacks on civilian airports had been launched “ in order to disrupt flights by official delegations that are participants of the UN Libyan Political Dialogue Process”
It said that it was of vital importance that “those committing such crimes should be held responsible within the framework of the UN Charter and related UNSC Resolutions”.
UNSMIL this afternoon condemned the attack and called for a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounded it. It urged: “all military actors in Libya to exercise caution in the conduct of their operations and to undertake all necessary measures to avoid targeting civilians and civilian objects and facilities in the ongoing conflict”.