Report: Italian ship's crew detained in Tripoli

  • Sun Mar 20th 2011

ROME (AP) - Italy said Sunday it was checking reports that Libyan officials had detained the crew of an Italian ship docked in Tripoli and prevented the vessel from leaving port, a day after U.S. and European forces launched air and missile strikes to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya.

The ANSA news agency reported the "Asso 22" tug of the Naples-based shipping company Augusta Offshore SrL has eight Italian, two Indian and one Ukrainian crew members aboard. Citing unnamed sources, ANSA said armed men, including one believed to be the Tripoli port commander, detained the crew as Libyan workers aboard were disembarking Saturday in Tripoli's port.

An Italian foreign ministry spokesman said officials were checking the report and that the company was in contact with the crew.

Calls to Augusta Offshore went unanswered Sunday.

Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler, has allowed seven military bases to be used by international forces enforcing the U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over Libya and said it was prepared to offer fighter aircraft as well if needed.

As U.S., French and British cruise missile and air strikes began Saturday, Premier Silvio Berlusconi assured Italians that Moammar Gadhafi's regime didn't have the capacity to strike Italian territory. Nevertheless, the mayor of the tiny island of Lampedusa, which is closer to the African continent than the Italian mainland, said Sunday he was worried about possible retaliation.

In 1986, Gadhafi fired a missile at Lampedusa, which at the time housed a U.S. Coast Guard installation, after the U.S. bombed Tripoli and Benghazi in retaliation for what Washington said was Libya's support for terrorism. The missile fell harmlessly in the sea.

Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russia told state-run RAI television that, according to Italian military estimates, Libyan missiles could strike no farther than 300 kilometers (186 miles). Lampedusa lies about 355 kilometers (220 miles) from Tripoli.

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