Turkey’s foreign ministry has strongly condemned what it referred to as the “heinous attack” against a Turkish dry cargo vessel named Tuna-1 chartered to the Cook Islands, in international waters 13 miles (21 km) off the Tobruk coast, on May 10 by forces loyal to General Khalifa Hafter’s rival Tobruk government.
The ministry said the targeted Turkish vessel was carrying plasterboard supplies from Spain to Tobruk.
Forces loyal to Libya’s rival House of Representatives (HoR) assembly led by General Hafter first shelled, then, conducted air strikes on Tuna-1 - which was attempting to leave the area on Sunday - killing the third officer aboard the vessel. The vessel also reported that some crew members were wounded in the attack.
General Hafter is a Libyan general and the military leader of Tobruk government in the ongoing Libyan Civil War of 2014. Hafter was appointed commander of the armed forces loyal to the internationally backed Tobruk government, on March 2, 2015.
Turkey’s foreign ministry said in its press release that Turkey protested the attack in the strongest terms to the Tobruk Libyan parliament, and demanded that the assembly end all actions against other Turkish ships including Tuna-1. The ministry also urged the people responsible should promptly be charged.
“We reserve all our rights including of compensation stemming from international law within the scope of the attack towards the ship in question. Necessary demarches are being taken regarding this issue before the related international organizations,” the press release added.
The attack on the Tuna-1 marks the second attack on a foreign civilian vessel by HoR forces since the assembly was founded and begun a military campaign to take control over Libya in August.
In January HoR forces conducted an air strike on a Greek vessel chartered to bring oil supplies to cities suffering power outages. The attack killed two crew members.
The Tobruk government has repeatedly threatened to shoot down civilian Turkish Airlines (THY) flights approaching Libya in the past, despite THY being the only international operator conducting flights to western Libya between August and March.
Turkey’s foreign ministry noted that “it is of vital importance that those committing such crimes should be held responsible within the framework of the UN Charter and related UNSC Resolutions.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said it is expected that Tuna-1 will reach Fethiye, a Turkish port in western Turkey, under the protection of the Gemlik frigate of the Turkish Navy.