From a NATO press statement: “Naples, Italy. In the early hours of Thursday 12 May 2011, while conducting Embargo patrols in the waters off the coast of Libya, NATO warships participated in a coordinated defence against a small boat attack threatening the port city of Misrata. Beginning at approximately 2 a.m. the Canadian Frigate HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN acting in concert with the British Destroyer HMS LIVERPOOL and supported by a French warship not under NATO Command, thwarted an attack on the port of Misrata by a number of fast small boats. The boats were forced to abandon their attack and regime forces ashore covered their retreat with artillery and anti-aircraft canon fire directed towards the allied warships….”
Click here for full statement.
A Royal Navy mine counter-measures vessel, the HMS Brocklesby, last week located and destroyed a mine containing 100 kg of high explosives outside of the Misrata harbour.
Click here for Royal Navy press statement.
The Guardian on Sunday reported many more details about an incident that began on 25 March when a migrant boat left Libya carrying 72 asylum seekers and which ended 16 days later on 10 April when the disabled vessel washed ashore in Libya with only 11 survivors. The survivors have described several incidents where military ships and planes ignored their pleas for rescue. It is clear from the survivors’ descriptions that their disabled vessel was sighted because at one point a military helicopter dropped bottles of water and emergency food rations on the migrant boat.
The UNHCR and Father Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean priest in Rome who runs the refugee rights organisation Habeshia, have called for further investigations into why the boat’s passengers were not rescued.
From the Guardian article: “The Guardian’s investigation into the case of the boat of 72 migrants which set sail from Tripoli on 25 March established that it carried 47 Ethiopians, seven Nigerians, seven Eritreans, six Ghanaians and five Sudanese migrants. Twenty were women and two were small children, one of whom was just one year old. The boat’s Ghanaian captain was aiming for the Italian island of Lampedusa, 180 miles north-west of the Libyan capital, but after 18 hours at sea the small vessel began running into trouble and losing fuel. Using witness testimony from survivors and other individuals who were in contact with the passengers during its doomed voyage, the Guardian has pieced together what happened next. The account paints a harrowing picture of a group of desperate migrants condemned to death by a combination of bad luck, bureaucracy and the apparent indifference of European military forces who had the opportunity to attempt a rescue….
The Guardian has made extensive inquiries to ascertain the identity of the Nato aircraft carrier, and has concluded that it is likely to have been the French ship Charles de Gaulle, which was operating in the Mediterranean on those dates. French naval authorities initially denied the carrier was in the region at that time. After being shown news reports which indicated this was untrue, a spokesperson declined to comment.
A spokesman for Nato, which is co-ordinating military action in Libya, said it had not logged any distress signals from the boat and had no records of the incident. ‘Nato units are fully aware of their responsibilities with regard to the international maritime law regarding safety of life at sea,’ said an official. ‘Nato ships will answer all distress calls at sea and always provide help when necessary. Saving lives is a priority for any Nato ships.’”
Click here for full Guardian article.
Click here (IT) for earlier article.
The route of the boat - from guardian.co.uk
The French naval vessel the Courbet stopped several Libyan patrol boats on 29 April that were in the process of attempting to lay mines outside the Misrata harbour. Three mines were discovered in the waters. This is a new danger for civilian ships and boats in Libyan waters. (HT to Bruxelles2).
Click here (FR) for French Ministry of Defence statement.
ICRC expressed its concern over the situation in Misrata where six to seven thousand foreign migrants and refugees are stranded and living in the open. The city is completely surround by Gaddafi forces. An ICRC delegation was able to enter the city over the weekend to deliver humanitarian supplies.
“Michael Mann, spokesperson for EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton, said [last week before the ICRC delegation arrived in Misrata] that a decision adopted on 1 April allowed the EU to use military equipment for a humanitarian operation [to evacuate civilians] in a situation such the one in Misrata. ‘We can launch this as soon as we receive a request from OCHA,’ the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, Mann said.”
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A former Libyan minister, Omar Fathi bin Shatwan, who was Energy Minister from 2004-2006, fled with his family to Malta from Misrata on board a fishing boat. According to Reuters, “Malta has been sending limited humanitarian aid to Misrata … on trawlers, but this was the first confirmation that any Libyan had used the boats to escape.” His arrival in Malta last Friday had been kept secret by the Maltese government.
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