Turkish ship attacked off the coast of LibyaMay 11, 2015 in Libya, Turkey
On Sunday, a Turkish dry cargo ship was shelled as it approached the Libyan city of Tobruk. The ship was then attacked from the air as it tried to leave the area, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The attack left the ship’s third officer killed and other crew members wounded. The Turkish Ministry maintains that the ship was in international waters at the time.
The Turkish-owned and Cook Islands-flagged ship, Tuna-1, was about 13 miles off the coast of Tobruk where it was carrying cargo from Spain. In a statement released on Monday, the Ankara government said, “We condemn strongly this contemptible attack which targeted a civilian ship in international waters and curse those who carried it out.” Turkey reserves its legal rights to seek compensation, the ministry said. The Turkish statement did not specify who launched the attacks, however a spokesman for the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army (LNA) says the vessel was bombed as it was warned not to approach the Libyan port of Derna.
The attack is not the first to occur in the Libya, where two opposing governments have been fighting to gain power in the country for over a year. On 4 January, a Libyan warplane bombed a Greek-operated oil tanker anchored off the eastern port of Derna, killing two crewmen. Military officials from the Tobruk government said the vessel had been warned not to enter port. Days later, on 9 January, the Commander of the Libyan Air Force announced that airstrikes will be carried out against any ships calling at militant-held Misrata port. A week later on 16 January, an oil tanker approaching the port of Benghazi was bombed. The Tobruk-led Libyan National Army claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the unnamed vessel was attempting to deliver petrol to a radical Islamist group Ansar Al-Sharia.
In February, internationally recognized Prime Minister, Abdullah al-Thani, said his government would stop dealing with Turkey because it was sending weapons to a rival group in Tripoli so that “the Libyan people kill each other.”
The internationally recognised House of Representatives operates out of Tobruk. Its forces, the LNA, have been battling against Fajr Libya, a coalition of militias supporting the Tripoli-based government, the General National Convention (GNC). Amid the chaos, radicalised elements have sought to gain a foothold in the land. The continued conflict has hindered the ability of government forces to differentiate between legitimate threats and innocent vessels.
MS Risk continues to advise merchant vessels to be aware of the threat to ships entering Libyan ports. Commercial vessel operators are urged to notify their insurers prior to sailing into Libyan coastal waters.