Italian tugboat and 11 crew released from Libya

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 21, 2011 12:10 PM
Italian tugboat and 11 crew released from Libya

NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) - An Italian tugboat and its 11 crew members, detained in Tripoli on Saturday, have been released and are heading north, the ship's operator said on Sunday.

The tug, crewed by 8 Italians, two Indians and a Ukrainian was detained in Libya at around 1600 GMT on Saturday, shortly before French aircraft fired the first shots against forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The detention briefly raised fears the crew had been taken hostage as Italian aircraft prepared to join the Western air operation against Libya.

Italy has provided seven airbases for use in the aerial attacks on Libya's air defenses and patrolling of its skies.

Augusta Offshore, the tug's operator said in a statement it had been released at around 1200 GMT.

Earlier, the company's chief executive said it had been operating in Libya for several years, mainly in partnership with Italian oil giant Eni.

"We've provided support to the oil platforms for many years," Mario Mattioli told reporters. "We're partners with Eni in this part of Africa and the whole situation was constantly monitored by the relevant authorities," he said.

(Reporting by Emilio Parodi and Laura Viggiano; Editing by Louise Ireland)