This morning, an Italian fishing vessel (named “Orizzonte,” MMSI: 247302240) was attacked with firearms by a patrol boat of the so-called Libyan coast guard. The attack took place 96 nautical miles off the Libyan coast in international waters. The fishing vessel was well beyond the Libyan Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which extends up to 72 nautical miles from the coast and is only recognized by Tripoli.
🔴 Ancora spari libici sui pescherecci italiani in acque internazionali— Sergio Scandura (@scandura) July 18, 2023
Motopesca 🚢#Orizzonte 🇮🇹 a 96 miglia nord di Misurata: colpi di mitra dall'assetto libico e assalto a bordo della milizia. #Libia
Tra poco a Radio Radicale l'audio dell'armatore Nino Moscuzza. pic.twitter.com/IlEjK9v4Ti
After firing at the Italian vessel, most likely using Kalashnikov rifles, the Libyan coast guards boarded the fishing vessel, climbed on board, and seized the mobile phone SIM cards of the crew members. During the attack, the vessel’s rudder was destroyed, leaving it adrift.
The captain of the fishing vessel fell ill, possibly due to a collapse. An Italian Navy unit is on its way to the area, having dispatched a helicopter after receiving the distress signal from the fishing vessel’s owner.
Around 08:00 CEST, an Italian Air Force ATR P-72A aircraft (registration MM62280) took off from Sigonella AB and likely headed to the attack area, as reported by accounts from the crew members collected by the Italian journalist Sergio Scandura (here is the audio of the radio report in Italian). The ATR returned to Sigonella at 14:43.
Currently, rescue operations for the fishing vessel are underway. It is not the first time that such attacks have occurred, showing a complete disregard for the most basic principles of maritime law and international law.
It is worth noting that just a few weeks ago, Italy donated two additional patrol boats to Tripoli. In the past, patrol boats gifted by Italy have been used for similar attacks against Italian fishing vessels.