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Libyan Coast Guard Forces Shoot and Injure Italian Fisherman

libya coast guard
Libyan Coast Guard patrol vessel (file image)

Published May 6, 2021 11:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

The captain of an Italian fishing vessel was injured Thursday after a Libyan Coast Guard vessel opened fire, according to Italian authorities. 

A pair of fishing boats out of Mazara del Vallo, Sicily were operating about 30 nm off the coast of Misrata when they were approached by a Libyan Coast Guard boat. The Libyan vessel fired warning shots and allegedly struck Giuseppe Giacalone, the captain of one of the boats, according to officials. Giacalone was transferred to an Italian Navy vessel and evacuated for treatment. 

Libya claims a significant swath of the southern Mediterranean as its territorial seas, beyond the standard 12 nm boundary specified by UNCLOS.

Though Italy is a major financial and operational supporter of the Libyan Coast Guard, Libyan forces have frequently clashed with Italian fishermen in Libyan-claimed waters. In December, Libyan forces loyal to the warlord Khalifa Haftar captured 18 Italian fishermen and held them in detention for more than 100 days; they were only released after Italy's premier and foreign minister made a personal visit to Benghazi. 

Libya's governance has recently changed: with the installation of a new unity government in March, Haftar and the UN-recognized administration in Tripoli have agreed to cooperate, reducing the violence which has plagued the nation ever since dictator Muammar Ghaddafi was overthrown in 2011.