Libya requests arming coastguards from Italy, officials say

Italian Interior Minister (centre) on a tour to the Libyan navy base in Abu Sitta in Tripoli.

Libya on Thursday asked Italy to arm the patrol boats it uses in the fight against illegal immigration across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe, the Local It reported.

Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti this week handed over to the Libyan coastguard four patrol boats repaired in Italy as part of a cooperation deal against people traffickers, according to the Local It.

Another six patrol boats are to follow soon after the training of their Libyan crews, he said.

“These boats are not fitted with arms. We can’t used them for patrols when the traffickers are increasingly armed,” Abdullah Tomia, a senior naval officer in charge of cooperation with Italy, told a news conference in Tripoli.

“We’ve asked Italy to arm the patrol boats,” he said, while noting that Libya was still under a UN arms embargo in force since its 2011 revolution that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

“Before the revolution, we were dealing with unarmed traffickers. But no we are up against fierce, armed gangs,” Tomia said, as reported by the Local It.

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