It was reported early on Tuesday morning (8 December) that a Turkish ship transporting medicine to the Libyan port of Misrata was detained by forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar’s forces detained the vessel and its 17 crew members, including nine Turkish citizens, claiming they did not comply with instructions.
Ahmed Al-Mismari, Haftar’s spokesman, said on his social media account that the Jamaican-flagged commercial cargo ship Mebruka, whose owner is stated to be a Turk, was caught by Haftar’s militia. The militia claims the ship entered a prohibited area and did not respond to calls and withdrew to the port of Ras al-Hilal.
Al-Mismari added that the ship was "investigated and inspected because it violated maritime rules and laws.”
He also told the Al-Hadath television channel that the ship was loaded with drugs to be taken to Misrata but entered the forbidden area.
Claiming they made a call to the ship but did not receive a response, Mismari said: "We approached the ship with boats and boarded it”
The captain did not follow the procedures and the ship entered the prohibited area without permission, he said, adding there were no weapons on board.
According to information obtained by Anadolu Agency, the crew are in good health.
The incident is likely to increase tensions in the Central Mediterranean and a firm response by Turkey is likely. Libya has been caught in a civil war for nearly a decade, with a UN recognised government based in Tripoli, and an opposing authority, lead my military strongman Khalifa Haftar, based in the east of the country. Turkey has been a strong supporter of the Tripoli based government and provides it with military assistance. Talks are ongoing between the two opposing sides in the Libyan civil war with a view to ending the crisis.
source: commonspace.eu with Anadolu Agency (Ankara), Hurriyet Daily News (Istanbul) and agencies
photo: A Turkish ship close to Libyan waters (archive picture)