September 13, 2010 / 6:38 PM / 10 years ago

Libyan police fire on Italian fishing boat

ROME, Sept 13 (Reuters) - A Libyan naval patrol opened fire with machine guns on an Italian fishing boat close to Libya’s coast, the Italian coastguard said on Monday.

The Libyan motor boat was one of six vessels recently donated to the Tripoli government by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to help it stop migrants leaving African shores bound for Italy, an Italian tax police spokesman said.

The fishing boat Ariete, based near Trapani in western Sicily, had 10 men on board when it was fired on from the motorboat about 30 miles off the Libyan coast on Sunday night, a coastguard spokesman told Reuters.

None of the fishermen were wounded.

An Italian official was also on board the Libyan boat as an observer as part of the collaboration between the two nations in the fight against illegal immigration to Italy.

Berlusconi has been widely criticised in Italy for his close relations with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

During a visit to Rome last month Gaddafi caused outrage among many Italians when he urged hundreds of young Italian women to convert to Islam.

The women had been hired by a hostess agency to attend a meeting with Gaddafi.

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