Gunmen attacked Doctors Without Borders’ boat off Libyan coast

MSF has condemned an armed attack on rescue vessel near the coast of Libya
MSF has condemned an armed attack on rescue vessel near the coast of Libya

Gunmen have attacked a charity-funded boat rescuing refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, shooting at international aid workers before boarding the vessel.

The Bourbon Argos, which is operated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), was patrolling around 24 nautical miles north of the Libyan coast when a speedboat approached.

Those on board failed to identify themselves or answer radio contact, then opened fire from around 500 metres away as rescue workers sought refuge in a designated safe area.

The armed men then boarded the Bourbon Argos and searched the vessel, which had no refugees on board at the time, for almost an hour.

MSF said they did not steal or remove anything and left minimal damage, although staff emerged to find bullet holes in the ship.

“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 Stefano Argenziano, MSF’s operations co-ordinator.

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

The attack on 17 August was believed to be the first of its kind in the refugee crisis, where several naval and humanitarian ships are patrolling the Mediterranean and Aegean seas in efforts to prevent boat disasters that have killed more than 3,000 asylum seekers so far this year.

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