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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 January 2021

German attempt to search Turkish ship followed signs of arms smuggling to Libya

EU analysts reportedly saw satellite images of suspicious goods being loaded on to the Rosaline A

A screen grab from a video released by Demiroren News Agency shows a German soldier landing from a helicopter on a Turkish cargo ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on November 23, 2020. AFP / Demiroren News Agency
A screen grab from a video released by Demiroren News Agency shows a German soldier landing from a helicopter on a Turkish cargo ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea on November 23, 2020. AFP / Demiroren News Agency

The German military reportedly had prior intelligence to suspect that a Turkish cargo ship it searched last week was smuggling weapons to Libya.

Analysts from the EU mission Irini, which aims to stop arms reaching Libya's warring factions, found satellite images showing that armoured military vehicles had been unloaded from the ship, the Rosaline A, during a previous visit to the Libyan port of Misurata, Der Spiegel reported on Friday.

Satellite imagery also showed suspicious goods being loaded onto the ship at the Turkish port of Ambarli earlier this month, the German paper said.

Turkey prevented German forces belonging to the Irini mission from carrying out a full search of a cargo ship when it was stopped in the Mediterranean 200 kilometres north of the Libyan city of Benghazi on Sunday.

Soldiers from the frigate Hamburg boarded the freighter but had to abandon checks and withdraw after Turkey protested to the EU mission, the German defence ministry said on Monday.

"By the time the soldiers left the ship, they had not found anything suspicious," a ministry spokesman said.

Turkish security sources said the Rosaline A was carrying food and paint, and that the search team had breached international law by not waiting for Turkey’s permission.

It said the soldiers had found nothing despite spending the entire night opening containers on board. But not all of them were checked.

Turkey protested to the German and Italian ambassadors in Ankara hours after the cargo ship was stopped. On Monday, the Turkish foreign ministry called the operation “illegal” and accused the German military of using to force to search the ship.

Ankara on Friday launched an inquiry into the incident. The chief prosecutor’s office claimed the search was conducted without “Turkey’s authorisation and against international regulations”. The investigation is not expected to lead to arrests or the extradition of officials involved in the search.

Published: November 28, 2020 05:57 PM

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