Two Italian fishing boats from the Sicilian port town of Mazara del Vallo – the ”Aliseo” and ”Anna Madre” – were reportedly attacked by a boat off Zarzis, at the border between Libya and Tunisia, in international waters.
An Italian Navy helicopter and a Tunisian military vessel reportedly intervened, persuading the vessel to back off, according to the president of the Sicilian fishing district, Giovanni Tumbiolo.
The vessel reportedly belongs to Tunisian Customs authorities.
The incident occurred on Wednesday night and is allegedly connected to the so-called local ‘fishing war’ amid a climate of tension in the Mediterranean for the Italian mission in Libya to confront the ongoing migrant crisis. The vessel reportedly fired shots at both fishing boats that immediately asked for help. An Italian military helicopter and a Tunisian Navy vessel forced the boat to back off.
Tumbiolo expressed ”great appreciation for the joint action of the Italian foreign ministry and the Italian embassy in Tunis, as well as the Italian and Tunisian Navy”, while sounding the alarm on the ”fishing war that has been going on for over 50 years, endangering the safety of our fishermen” to control fishing in the area.
Well-informed sources in Rome confirmed the attack, which was probably carried out by a Tunisian cutter that allegedly wanted to force the two Italian vessels to dock at a Tunisian port to check on its fishing activity. The shots were allegedly fired as a warning, the sources said.
The helicopter reportedly took off from an Italian Navy vessel in the area, forcing the Tunisian boat to desist from the attack and leave.
The same well-informed sources said no Tunisian vessels intervened to defend the Sicilian boats, which resumed their activity on Thursday morning south of Lampedusa. Port authorities in Mazara del Vallo said they are in close contact with the ”Aliseo” and ”Anna madre”.