The renegade Libyan National Army claims to have shelled and destroyed a Cook Islands-flagged ship that they say was carrying arms and ammunition – but the claim’s veracity is being questioned.
The Libyan group claimed to have destroyed a Turkish cargo ship, berthed at Tripoli in Libya. That ship, the Ayla, is registered in the Cook Islands – but analysts say she is still in port and appears unscathed.
Last night, Maritime Cook Islands’ director Glenn Armstrong was not aware of the Libyan group’s claims, but said they were looking into it.
“All we can confirm is that the ship is registered in the Cook Islands,” he said. “The owner-manager has a number of ships registered with us going all the way back to 2009.”
Turkey has denied that one of its ships was shelled.
Maritime analyst Mikhail Voytenko, from Maritime Bulletin, said the Turkish bulk carrier Ayla was at Tripoli (contrary to Turkey’s denials). She arrived on Feb 15 from Istanbul.
Ayla, first registered in 1995, is managed by Turkish company Tolunay Ship Management.
“But she’s far from being hit or destroyed, judging from her most recent looks,” Voytenko said. “Her AIS (ship locater beacon) is on, and no other ship in port looks like hit by missile or shell.
“Reportedly, the port was either shelled or hit with missile, resulting in one warehouse fire and a lot of billowing black smoke.
“As for Libyan National Army’s claim on sinking Turkish ship, such a bold statement is not surprising for those who have to monitor Libyan maritime news and information.
“Libyan National Army claims and statements, at least with regards to shipping and ships, weren’t, kind of, exactly true, so far.”
Libya’s National Oil Corporation “urgently evacuated” all fuel tankers from the port of Tripoli after attacks by Eastern Libyan forces on Tuesday, in a new escalation in the battle for control of Tripoli.
The Corporation said confirmed there had been a missile strike near an LPG ship.
“All offloading operations were cancelled after projectiles struck near a highly explosive LPG tanker in Tripoli port,” the statement added.
Turkey retaliated by launching air strikes on Libyan National Army positions, but the Libyan National Army claimed to have shot down a Turkish drone south of Tripoli.
A spokesman said that the drone had taken off from the Mitiga Air Force Base, in response to the army’s bombing of a Turkish cargo ship carrying ammunition and weapons coming from Turkey.
The Libyan National Army, also known as the Haftar Armed Forces, is a component of Libya's military forces, which were nominally a unified national force under the command of Khalifa Haftar.
The militia group was established by the Libyan government after the first Libyan civil war in 2011.
At the beginning of the Second Libyan Civil War, the army was split between Khalifa Haftar's "anti-terrorist" faction, which acted largely independently, and Abdulsalam al-Obaidi's "legalist" faction which relied on orders from political authorities.
In 2014, the Council of Deputies appointed Haftar commander of the whole army, re-uniting the two factions.
About half of the Libyan National Army consists of militias including Madkhali, Sudanese, Chadian and Russian mercenaries. The LNA possesses its own air force.