The Anwaar Afriqya’s Georgian ship master was on the bridge doorway at the time when the missile struck the vessel. The man heard a loud crushing sound followed by an explosion that sent him violently right through the door.
“The missile hit my navigation deck and an explosion followed, which catapulted me there,” commented 52-year-old Selman Dzhabnize, pointing to a spot at about two-three meters away from the doorway.
“I have no idea what happened. When I regained consciousness I saw fire everywhere. I came inside and grabbed the fire extinguisher and started fighting off the fire, but after a mere minute I was unable to see anything so I left.”
The attack occurred on May 24th and was carried out by a fighter jet that belongs to the Libyan Army which is led by General Khalifa Hiftar, aligned with the Libyan government in Tobruk that is officially recognized on an international level.
The vessel eventually caught fire but it was successfully handled and put out. The tanker was then towed to a Misurata-based military port, where we were able to board the ship and speak to the crew members who were aboard during the time of the bombing.
Luckily, the ship master (who was born in Tiblisi) did not sustain any major injuries.
Although he admitted to having some minor problems by pointing to his abdomen, he said stoically that it was nothing big. Another member of the vessel’s crew also sustained some injuries but again fortunately none of them were serious.
The bombing put in danger not only the 20 or so members of the ship’s crew but also posed a grave risk to the environment as the 170-meter long oil tanker was transporting roughly 30,000 tons of gas oil at the time.
The Misurata Coast Guard’s Colonel Ridda Eassa, who was in charge of the team that responded to the vessel’s distress call and later towed it back to shore, had this to say regarding the matter:
“This could have turned into the most significant eco disaster, had the ship spilt, even partially, its cargo. We would not have had that many options to deal with the issue.”
The Tobruk-based government later on admitted to having ordered the said attack but commented that the vessel was transporting fighters and various weapons for the purposes of the militias of the rival Tripoli-based government, a claim that was denied by the ship master as well as by every single crew member.
It also stated that the crew had chosen to ignore radio instructions preceding the attack, but again the ship master refuted by saying there was no communication whatsoever.
“We have no idea what was the cause of the bombing, we were merely transporting gas oil,” he commented, adding that they have all the documentation to prove it, given to them by the port in Greece, from where the vessel initially departed.
A crew member that had been on deck at the time of the attack, and who wished to remain anonymous, said the aircraft fired two missiles, with one of them hitting the bridge and the other missing the deck.
The jet’s pilot then decided to make a 2nd pass and initiated fire with the aircraft’s machine guns aimed at a crewman who was attempting to attach a bunch of hose pipes on the deck in order to put out the ongoing fire.
The incident bares a high level of importance as it serves as an example of how the two sides are throwing random potshots while at the same time attempting to negotiate the necessary conditions of peace.
This happens to be the 2nd tanker vessel attacked by the officially recognized government, the other one being a Turkish cargo carrier, which was said to have been transporting weapons for the purposes of the town of Sirte which is currently under the control of ISIS. Western leaders have chosen to remain fairly silent on the matter for now regarding both incidents but yet the implications they have, especially those regarding the Anwaar Afriqya, might be a bit far reaching.
The ship was unloading its cargo of diesel that was intended to fuel the Sirte-based power plant, which is currently still controlled by the Misurata brigades that are aligned by Tripoli.
The power plant in question is responsible for providing power to the majority of West Libya and it is running out of resources.
“The single reason behind the bombing was for us to be prevented to fuel the power station,” commented Colonel Ridda Eassa.
If the power station, however, is to indeed cease operation, the effect will only be felt by the Tripoli government in a political sense, but also by its capability of securing the west part of the country, and maintaining the proper life conditions for the millions of people that live there.