The head of the coast guard in Libya has formally apologised for one of his ships firing at an Italian fishing boat. No-one was injured in the shooting; the Libyans initially claimed to have fired in the air, but bullet marks could be clearly seen on gas bottles aboard the Ariete. The incident happened late on Sunday in the Gulf of Sirte southwest of Sicily. Despite the attack, the Ariete was able to escape.
The Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini confirmed that Tripoli has said sorry. Inquiries are to be held in both Italy and Libya. Ironically, the Libyan patrol boats were a gift from Italy as part of the two countries’ fight against illegal immigration from sub-Saharan Africa.
Emma Bonino, a leading opponent of Silvio Berlusconi’s government and the vice president of the Senate, said this sort of incident could have and should have been foreseen when the deal was being put together.
In another twist, it has been revealed that Italian naval officers were aboard the Libyan ship at the time of the shooting, as part of the collaboration between Rome and Tripoli.