Libyan navy denies shooting at Italian fisherman

FILE PHOTO: A Libyan coastguard uses binoculars as he patrols the area at sea between Sabratha and Zawiyah on July 28, 2017. (Photo credit TAHA JAWASHI/AFP/Getty Images)

The Libyan navy on Sunday denied shooting at an Italian fisherman off the Libyan coast during an operation against four boats from Sicily.

FILE PHOTO: A Libyan coastguard uses binoculars as he patrols the area at sea. (Photo credit TAHA JAWASHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Salvatore Quinci, mayor of the fishing port of Mazaro del Vallo in southwestern Sicily, said members of the Coast Guard shot at a fisherman’s boat, the Italian news agency Agi reported.

The navy said in a statement that four Italian fishing boats were spotted on Thursday 30 miles (about 48 km) off the coast of Khoms city, some 120 km east of the capital Tripoli.

A Libyan Coast Guard vessel went to the location and issued orders to the Italian boats to be inspected, but the boats did not respond, the statement said.

One of the Italian boats was captured and inspected in the presence of an Italian navy vessel and was then released after the crew signed a pledge not to fish in the area, the statement said, adding that a member of the Italian boat’s crew was injured “when he hit one of the windows of the boat.”

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio condemned the Coast Guard’s actions but also warned against crossing into Libyan waters.

“We have been advising against going there not just for months but for 10 years,” he said.