While there were no eyewitness reports or any other independent confirmation of the sinking it was also reported on the Al-Arabiya TV network. According to the air force spokesperson, Nassera al-Hassi: “The vessel was sunk because it had loaded fighters, weapons and ammunition to support terrorism in the eastern region.”
The forces of the Tobruk government under the command of CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar have been on an offensive in Benghazi to try and drive out forces of the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, an umbrella group that includes Ansar al-Sharia, the group accused of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador, several CIA agents and staff. While Haftar has retaken much of the city, parts still remain in control of Islamists. Haftar launched his Operation Dignity in May of 2014 to purge Libya of islamists including the forces of the rival Tripoli government. Recently there are reports that the Islamic State(IS) is also fighting in Benghazi along with Ansar al-Sharia, a surprising situation if true since the two groups are bitter foes, as many IS fighters converted to IS from Ansar al-Sharia. In a recent clash, the key commander of Libyan Special Forces — who are loyal to Haftar — was killed by a sniper. This has resulted in fierce bombardment by air and artillery of residential areas held by the Islamists that has been condemned by the UN. The attack on the ship may be part of a new push to defeat the Islamists.
A Globe and Mail report cites Mohamed El Hejazi a spokesperson for Khalifa Haftar as saying that a second ship which he claims was carrying weapons was attacked in the same area. A military official said the ships were small, about the size of fishing boats, and came from western Libya in areas controlled by the rival Tripoli government. The official said that one boat had been sunk and the other one was burning. The National Oil Company has accused the Tobruk government of bombing oil tankers based upon claims that they carried weapons and ammunition.
Not long ago, Tobruk planes bombed a ship unloading fuel for a power plant in Sirte. Although much of Sirte at the time was controlled by the Islamic State, the area where the boat was unloading the fuel was controlled by Tripoli forces as was the area with the power plant. The area has since been taken by IS. In January, a Greek-operated tanker unloading heavy fuel oil according to the National Oil Company was also attacked killing two seamen. The Tobruk government claimed the ship was carrying weapons for jihadists in Derna. A Turkish ship off the port of Tobruk was attacked after it was warned not to approach according to Tobruk authorities. One crew member was killed in the attack which was in international waters. Turkey described the event as a contemptible attack. The attack is described in the appended video.