Italy says Libyan coast guard fired at its fishing boats, injuring captain

ROME, May 6 (Reuters) – The Libyan coast guard fired on three Italian fishing boats on Thursday, injuring the captain of one of the vessels, Italian authorities said.

Boats operating from the Sicilian port of Mazara del Vallo were fishing around 30 to 40 nautical miles off the Libyan coastal town of Misrata when a Libyan coast guard vessel fired warning shots at them.

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

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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 was seized by Libyan patrol boats while fishing in the Mediterranean, accused by local authorities of operating in Libyan territorial waters. They were released about three months later. Read more

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

Southern Mediterranean fishing grounds have been contested since 2005, when then Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi unilaterally extended Libyan territorial waters to 74 nautical miles off 12.

Enrico Letta, leader of the ruling Italian Democratic Party, tweeted that the latest incident was “inconceivable” and that the government of Mario Draghi “should not be satisfied with apologies or vague explanations” from Libya.

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

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Reporting by Angelo Amante and Gavin Jones; edited by Jonathan Oatis

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