Italy says Libyan coastguard fired on its fishing boats, injuring captain

ROME (REUTERS) - The Libyan coastguard on Thursday (May 6) fired on three Italian fishing boats, injuring the captain of one of the vessels, Italian authorities said.

The boats operating out of the Sicilian port of Mazara del Vallo were fishing some 30 to 40 nautical miles off the Libyan coastal town of Misrata when a Libyan coastguard vessel fired warning shots against them.

Giuseppe Giacalone, the captain of one of the boats, was "slightly injured" and transferred to an Italian navy vessel, the mayor of Mazara del Vallo, Salvatore Quinci, told Reuters, confirming reports in Italian media.

There have been frequent tensions between Italy and Libya over Italian fishing activity off the North African coast.

Last September, a group of Italian sailors were seized by Libyan patrol boats while fishing in the Mediterranean, accused by local authorities of operating in Libya's territorial waters.

They were released some three months later.

"This is the umpteenth attack by the Libyan government in Tripoli," Quinci told Reuters.

The southern Mediterranean fishing grounds have been disputed since 2005, when Libya's then ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, unilaterally extended Libyan territorial waters to 74 nautical miles offshore from 12.

Enrico Letta, leader of Italy's co-ruling Democratic Party, tweeted that the latest incident was "inconceivable" and Mario Draghi's government "must not be satisfied by apologies or vague explanations" from Libya.

Libya's new unity government took office in March from two warring administrations that had ruled eastern and western regions, completing a smooth transition of power after a decade of violent chaos.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.