A Turkish dry cargo ship has been attacked near the Libyan port city of Tobruk, the Foreign Ministry in Ankara says. A ship officer was killed and several crew members injured.
The incident took place Sunday night. The ship was first shelled from the shore as it was approaching the area, the Turkish ministry said Monday. It was then attacked twice from the air as it was trying to leave the area.
The MV Tuna 1, sailing under the flag of Cook Islands, was carrying a cargo to the Libyan port from Spain and came under attack when it was in international waters, the ministry said. The man killed in the incident was the ship’s third officer.
The ministry condemned the assault, but did not specify who was behind it.
“We condemn strongly this contemptible attack which targeted a civilian ship in international waters and curse those who carried it out,” it said.
A Libyan military spokesman responded to condemnations from Ankara, saying the vessel came under attack after ignoring a warning not to approach the city of Derna, some 145 km west of Tobruk.
“A ship was shelled about 10 miles from Derna coast. We have warned before about approaching Derna port,” Mohamed Hejazi, a spokesman for forces with Libya’s internationally recognized government, told Reuters. He confirmed one member of the crew was killed, but said that only one other sustained injuries.
A military source also told Reuters the vessel caught on fire and was towed in Tobruk terminal.
“There has been some tension growing between the official government of Libya and Turkey,” Catherine Shakdam, of the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies, told RT.
“Ankara was accused of supporting Islamist militia groups in Libya. What we’ve seen today is a continuation of these tensions.”
She added: “Turkey has a history with the Muslim Brotherhood and we have seen militants in Libya acting under the wing of the Muslim Brotherhood or claim to belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. It is fair to say that the Libyan government feels threatened, at least by Ankara’s broad ideological support of such groups.”
Libya remains in turmoil after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in the popular uprising of 2011 and NATO bombing campaign. At the moment, two separate governments both claiming to be legitimate exist.
The country has been riven by factional fighting and impoverished by the economic decline that followed the hostilities. It has also become a hotbed of international terrorism, with Iraq and Syria-based group Islamic State sending its fighters to Libya.
Back in January, a Libyan warplane attacked a Greek-operated oil tanker anchored off the coast. The attack by forces loyal with the internationally-recognized government of Libya was motivated by factions fighting for control over Libya’s oil export. Two crewmembers of the ship were killed.