BELGIUM–(ENEWSPF)–16 May 2011. In the early hours of 16 May, maritime forces engaged in the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector detected two rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) that appeared to have deployed from the vicinity of Zlintan and were headed towards Misrata. NATO forces reacted by sending warships and helicopters to investigate and identify the RHIBs.
As NATO forces made their approach, one RHIB stopped in the water as the second escaped at high speed to the West, towards Zlintan.
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. In view of the obvious threat posed by the explosives, the decision was made to destroy the RHIB at sea. This was carried out by the allied warship using small arms fire.
This incident bore similarities with a recent incident, where pro-Qadhafi forces laid sea-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 in the area of Misrata.
This is also the third incident in recent weeks where pro-Qadhafi forces have been active on the seas, a change in their operations that signifies their continued intent to bring harm to civilians or to attack NATO vessels.
NATO repeats its warning to the people of Libya to stay away from any military equipment including aircraft, vessels, vehicles and installations.