BRUSSELS, May 16 (Reuters) - NATO said its warships found explosives and mannequins on a small boat off the Libyan port of Misrata on Monday, in what they believe was a plan by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces to lure ships and destroy them.
A NATO statement said the boat was abandoned when NATO forces approached to check two rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIB) heading towards the rebel-held port. The other craft escaped at high speed.
“An explosive ordnance disposal team from an allied warship was deployed to inspect the abandoned RHIB and discovered a large quantity of explosives (approximately one tonne) and two human mannequins,” the statement said.
“It looks like they were there to look like people and draw ships in and the explosives could be detonated,” a NATO official said.
A NATO ship destroyed the boat with gunfire, and the explosion could be seen 12 nautical miles (22 km) away, the official said.
Last month forces loyal to Gaddafi laid mines in the approaches to the port of Misrata.
“However this is the first evidence of an attempt to use an improvised explosive device with decoy human mannequins to threaten commercial shipping and humanitarian aid,” the NATO statement said.
Twenty NATO ships have been patrolling the central Mediterranean Sea to enforce a United Nations arms embargo on Libya. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Rex Merrifield)