Italy seizes freighter accused of smuggling Turkish arms to Libya

Italian anti-organised crime and special operations police units have seized a freighter and are investigating whether it was used for arms smuggling after a sailor offered information on the role he said the ship played in the illegal arms trade between Turkey and Libya, Italian newspaper Il Secolo XIX reported.

The Lebanese-registered BANA had stopped at the port of Messina in Genoa, northwest Italy, for technical checks when the 25-year-old sailor took images showing weapons that he said he had taken in the ship’s cargo hold, the newspaper said.

Turkey is the main backer of Libya’s U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord, and its shipments of armoured vehicles and drones have helped the Tripoli-based government withstand an offensive launched last April by the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).

Ankara signed a military memorandum agreeing to the deployment of Turkish troops to support Tripoli in November, and both the LNA’s attacks and Turkish support have escalated since then.

The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle spotted the BANA in late January headed toward Tripoli under escort by a Turkish frigate.

The United Nations imposed an arms embargo on Libya, which has seen a string of internal conflicts since its former dictator, Muammar Gadaffi, was overthrown in 2011.

Egypt has long accused Turkey of breaking the embargo, but the Egyptian-backed LNA has also received military support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, according to reports.