Italy Demands NATO Probe Over Libya Boat Migrants


From Alessandra Rizzo and Frances D’Emilio, the AP:  Italy called for a NATO investigation Friday into whether one of the alliance’s warships ignored a migrant boat’s distress call amid unconfirmed reports that dozens died during the journey from Libya.

On Thursday, Italy’s coast guard rescued hundreds of people packed aboard a boat stranded between Libya and the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, which is near Africa’s coast.

The relief organization Medecins Sans Frontieres said migrants arriving at Lampedusa’s dock told the group’s staff that they had witnessed "dozens of people die" because of the harsh conditions. . . .

The Italian reports, again without citing sources, said the boat had sent an SOS to a nearby NATO warship, but received neither help nor a response while being stranded for six days.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini requested that NATO conduct a formal investigation and said he also instructed Italy’s NATO ambassador to ask the alliance to consider the care of civilians fleeing Libya on rickety boats as part of the U.N. resolution that allows military action to protect civilians in Libya itself. . . .

NATO acknowledged in a statement Friday afternoon from its command in Naples that Italian authorities had informed the alliance’s maritime command about "a distress call of a ship." It said NATO then confirmed with the Italian authorities that Italy was responding with three ships and helicopter support.

"Facts of the incident are still emerging and we are working closely with Italian authorities to fully clarify the matter," the statement said. "NATO has a long-standing commitment to render assistance in emergency situations at sea."  (photo: Reuters)

Image: reuters%208%207%2011%20Franco%20Frattini.jpg