World Bulletin / News Desk
A Medecins Sans Frontieres ship taking part in migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean came under attack from armed men last week who shot at the vessel before briefly climbing aboard, the medical charity said Thursday.
Nobody was hurt in the incident which took place on August 17, the group said.
The Bourbon Argos was "approached and attacked by a group of armed men on board an unidentified speedboat" as the rescue vessel was conducting a search operation some 24 nautical miles (44 km) north of the Libyan coast, MSF said in a statement.
The men began firing at the Bourbon Argos when they were several hundred metres (yards) away and then boarded the vessel, it added.
The crew hid in a safe room while the armed men walked around the ship for some 50 minutes before leaving again, "without stealing or removing anything".
"There were no people rescued on board that day and neither the crew members nor the MSF staff were harmed," said the charity, also known as Doctors Without Borders.
"Although we don't know the identity of the attackers or their motivation, our initial assessment of the facts shows that they were professional and well-trained," said MSF operations coordinator Stefano Argenziano.
"This was a serious and worrying attack, with shooting toward our boat which could have put our staff in acute physical danger."
There are around a dozen vessels run by humanitarian groups that patrol the waters off the Libyan coast, accounting for over a fifth of all rescue missions of migrants and refugees seeking to reach Europe, often aboard flimsy and overcrowded boats.