“The Patroller Fezzan rescued a burning trawler and saved her crew of eight. » On August 24, 2021, the Facebook page “Coastguard and port security” publishes the results of a rescue operation carried out during the day by the Libyan coast guard. To illustrate this, the page publishes a photo of the trawler on fire.
The presence of time and location information on the image indicates that it is a shot taken by an aerial surveillance device, and not by a simple camera. This kind of images, between 2018 and 2022, the Libyan Coast Guard published a dozen, on different accounts and networks. Except that Libya is not equipped with devices capable of producing these images. Who is behind it?
To identify their source, The world cross-checked the information they contain with ADS-B data, a signal emitted by planes in flight, as well as with the logbooks of several NGOs active in the Mediterranean, in the air or at sea. In the case of the August 24, 2021, for example, the information present on the image indicates the coordinates, the altitude and the precise time at which the device was when it made this image. They also give the approximate position of the trawler observed by the device.
We reconstructed the air traffic over the Mediterranean on the morning of August 24, 2021. By comparing the routes of the various aircraft with the data available on the image, we were able to identify an aircraft which was precisely at the coordinates and at the altitude at which the photo was taken, when it was taken: the AS2132 drone, operated by Frontex.
For other images, we had access to observations from NGOs, such as SeaWatch or SOS Méditerranée, recorded in logbooks. These are freely accessible here. In total, this work allows us to affirm that on five different dates the images published by the Libyan Coast Guard were taken by Frontex devices. At least another was by a device from EunavforMed, the European naval force in the Mediterranean, which collaborates with Frontex.
Interceptions impossible without outside intelligence
Asked, the border guard agency assures him: ” there is no collaboration between Frontex and the Libyan Coast Guard “, what its ex-director Fabrice Leggeri already affirmed in March 2021. The agency states, however: “Each time a Frontex aircraft discovers a boat in distress, an alert – and an image, if applicable – is immediately sent to the rescue coordination center regional. The information sent includes, in particular, the position, the seaworthiness of the ship and the probability that it will not reach its final destination. »
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