Hundreds of thousands of refugees want to come to Europe from Libya – a billion-dollar deal for gangs of traffickers. A local warlord has declared war on the smugglers: with a boat, 37 men and opaque motifs.

By Micheal Obert & Moises Saman

This article was published in cooperation with European Press Prize.

The boat is only a few meters away, the mouth of a machine gun flashes at night, shots crash, we throw ourselves on the floor of the wheelhouse and press the faces on the ship’s mats. Bullets are hitting our heads.

From our cover aboard the Tileel, a patrol ship of the Libyan coast guard, we see a dinghy with African refugees in the waves of the Mediterranean Sea. Right next to it, less than thirty metres from us, men in camouflage suits and face masks with automatic weapons fire at us from a speedboat.