CAIRO — Fighter jets dispatched by Libya’s internationally recognized government bombed a Greek-owned tanker ship at an eastern city controlled by Islamist extremists Jan. 5, killing two crew members and wounding two, Libyan and Greek officials said.
The bombing highlights the chaos that’s gripped Libya since its 2011 civil war that deposed and killed dictator Moammar Gadahfi.
Libyan officials apologized for the bombing as the Greek Foreign Ministry demanded compensation for the victims’ families and punishment for those behind the attack.
Libyan military spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari said jets struck the Liberian-flagged Araevo twice in Darna before his government learned the vessel was commissioned by the local power station. Darna is a base for Islamic extremists who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
“We had no information (about the tanker). We treated it as a dangerous and suspicious target that threatens national security,” al-Mesmari told The Associated Press. “We regret the loss of lives.”
Libya’s state-run National Oil Corp. contradicted al-Mesmari’s account, saying it informed all parties it contracted the ship.
“This incident will negatively impact the arrival of oil tankers to Libyan ports in the future, which will consequently affect the ability to provide fuel to different regions,” the corporation said in a statement.
Al-Mesmari said the ship was heading in the opposite direction of the power station, raising suspicions. “The Libyan government will address the issue with the Greek government,” he said.
Greece’s Merchant Marine Ministry said the vessel had 12,600 metric tons of fuel on board and that damage to it was being assessed. The victims were identified as a Greek and a Romanian. Araevo’s crew of 26 consisted of 21 Filipinos, three Greeks and two Romanians.
Al-Mesmari’s government, based in Tobruk, is locked in a bloody confrontation with the self-proclaimed government in Tripoli, which is backed by militias mostly from the western city of Misrata and other Islamist groups.
The internationally recognized Tobruk government says it is engaged in a war against terrorist groups and has asked for foreign support to establish its control over the oil-rich North African country.
(SARAH EL DEEB and NICHOLAS PAPHITIS)