Migrant rescue boat operated by Doctors Without Borders attacked by armed men off Libya

A hospital operated by MSF in Yemen on August 16. An MSF ship came under attack off the Libyan coast while taking part in migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
A hospital operated by MSF in Yemen on August 16. An MSF ship came under attack off the Libyan coast while taking part in migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - A Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) ship taking part in migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean came under attack from armed men last week who shot at the vessel before briefly climbing aboard, the medical charity said on Thursday (Aug 25).

Nobody was hurt in the incident, which took place on August 17, the group also known as Doctors Without Borders said.

The Bourbon Argos was "approached and attacked by a group of armed men on board an unidentified speedboat" as the rescue vessel was conducting a search operation some 24 nautical miles (44 km) north of the Libyan coast, MSF said in a statement.

The men began firing at the Bourbon Argos when they were several hundred metres away and then boarded the vessel, it added.

The crew hid in a safe room while the armed men walked around the ship for some 50 minutes before leaving again, "without stealing or removing anything".

"There were no people rescued on board that day and neither the crew members nor the MSF staff were harmed," said the charity.

"Although we don't know the identity of the attackers or their motivation, our initial assessment of the facts shows that they were professional and well-trained," said MSF operations coordinator Stefano Argenziano.

"This was a serious and worrying attack, with shooting toward our boat which could have put our staff in acute physical danger."

There are around a dozen vessels run by humanitarian groups that patrol the waters off the Libyan coast, accounting for over a fifth of all rescue missions of migrants and refugees seeking to reach Europe, often aboard flimsy and overcrowded boats.