The Libyan coastguard fired shots at Italian fishing boats before seizing the vessels and detaining their crew, Italian media said Wednesday.
The boats, both from Mazara del Vallo in Sicily, came under fire some 29 nautical miles off the North African coast late Tuesday in an area that Libya insists is an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the town’s mayor was quoted as saying.
Libyan officials boarded the boats and ordered the captains to head to the port of Ras Al Hilal, mayor Nicola Cristaldi said.
The vessels, with crews of six and seven respectively, were boarded “in waters that Libya unilaterally and illegitimately considers its own,” Cristaldi said, adding that no one was hurt.
“The Libyans... opened fire on the crew... On defenceless and unarmed people,” said Vincenzo Asaro, owner of one of the boats.
The Italian foreign office declined to comment.
Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Wednesday said “the stabilization of Libya is a strategic priority for Italy and Europe,” but made no direct reference to the fishing boat case.
How chaos in Libya is turning Italy’s fault line into a frontlineImmigration policies in Europe will face new challenges now that the state of emergency has been declared in Libya. In this crisis Italy is on a fault ... Features
Libya and Italy agree to reactivate friendship treaty to quell migrationItaly and Libya on Saturday agreed to reactivate a friendship treaty signed a decade ago that allows migrants to be returned to Libyan ... North Africa
Hundreds of migrants picked up between Libya and ItalyLibya’s coastguard and an international charity ship picked up several hundred migrants on Saturday as smugglers trying to take advantage of ... North Africa
Italy coastguard says almost 1,000 migrants rescued off LibyaSome 970 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya on Thursday, Italy’s coastguard said, as the numbers attempting to cross the Mediterranean ... North Africa