CAIRO (AP), — Libyan maritime authorities acknowledged that a Libyan Coast Guard vessel fired warning shots at a migrant boat it was following in the Mediterranean Sea. This apparent attempt to prevent it from crossing to Europe.
Late Thursday, the Libyan navy released a statement condemning any act that violates international and local standards and laws and promising to hold those responsible accountable. In the statement, it was stated that the vessel from Libya had threatened the lives of migrants in the chase.
Libyan navy admits danger
Sea-Watch, a German non-governmental organization, released footage from Thursday showing the Libyan coast guard following a blue wooden boat equipped with a small engine. There were at least two dozen people aboard.
The chase took place in international waters within Malta’s search-and-rescue responsibility zone. During the chase, uniformed men aboard the Libyan vessel were seen firing at least twice towards the boat. Bullets also struck the water nearby. The boat was almost smashed into several times by the Libyan coast guard.
Peter Stano, spokesperson for the EU Commission, said Friday that the incident was “a cause of concern” and added that the commission had asked for clarifications from the Libyan government.
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The rejections kept coming. The coronavirus was a topic of intense scientific fascination, yet the four Australian researchers challenging conventional wisdom about how the pandemic originated couldn’t find a publisher for their study.
“We were quite stunned,” recalls one of that study’s authors, Dr. Nikolai Petrovsky, an endocrinologist at Flinders University in Australia who is also developing a coronavirus vaccine. The work he and his group had done only received what he called “blanket rejections.”
That finally changed late last month, when Nature Scientific Reports published their paper, “In silico comparison of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein-ACE2 binding affinities across species and implications for virus origin.” The journal is part of the prestigious Nature family of publications. Acceptance there has given greater credibility to a theory that until recently was taboo: that the coronavirus could have emerged from a laboratory.
Some wonder why the study’s publication took so long. “It’s definitely concerning that the paper took over one year to be accepted for publication,” says Pat Fidopiastis, a microbiologist at California Polytechnic State University. “It’s important to continue asking questions and demand honest answers.”
The Australians’ findings were scientific but had major political ramifications. Using computer models, Petrovsky and his co-authors set out to learn which animal the virus may have originated from before infecting humans. Proponents of the zoonotic spillover hypothesis believed that the pathogen known as SARS-CoV-2 originated in bats and then made the leap to humans, possibly through an unknown intermediate species.
“We are currently investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding that event. We will certainly continue to follow up on this matter.” Stano stated that he would ask for explanations and also conduct an investigation into what happened.
The EU supports, trains and equips the Libyan coastguard to intercept migrants trying to cross the Central Mediterranean into Europe. This year, at least 723 people have died or disappeared while traveling on unsuitable boats.
Safa Msehli spokeswoman for International Organization for Migration on Friday. She stated that six bodies believed to be migrants were found washed up in Libya that day. The deaths are “a sad reminder that many people drown in the Mediterranean in invisible boat wrecks, in an absence of responsible and effective State Search and Rescue,” she tweeted.
The Libyan coast guard has intercepted nearly 15,000 people, including women and children, and brought them back to Libyan shores. This is a record.
In the same statement, the Libyan navy pledged to “pursue its duty to save lives at sea” and to safeguard Libya’s coast according to international and local laws and humanitarian standards.