Sun, Aug 31, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Libyan groups give different accounts of downed airplane

AFP, BENGHAZI, Libya

Supporters of Operation Dawn protest against the Libyan parliament at Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli on Friday. The pilot of a Libyan government plane on Friday was reportedly killed in a crash of disputed cause.

Photo: Reuters

Libyan jihadists said on Friday that they downed a plane belonging to forces of a rogue general, but a source close to the officer said it crashed because of a technical fault.

The military aircraft came down in Al-Baida in eastern Libya after carrying out air strikes targeting militants in Derna farther east, a spokesman for Libyan General Khalifa Haftar said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the crash happened because of a “technical” glitch, and added that the pilot was killed.

However, the Ansar al-Sharia jihadist group, which Washington classifies as a “terrorist organization” said on social networks that its militants fired a missile at the plane.

Neither claim could be independently confirmed.

Haftar in May launched an offensive dubbed “operation dignity” against Muslim militants in Benghazi, Libya’s second city and birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Ansar al-Sharia is based in Benghazi and is said to control 80 percent of the city.

Libya has been sliding into chaos since Qaddafi was overthrown and killed three years ago, as the embattled interim authorities confront powerful militias who fought to oust the veteran leader.

Last week, militants seized Tripoli airport after weeks of fierce fighting with nationalist rivals.

And the crisis has further deepened with factions backing rival prime ministers and rival parliaments.

On Wednesday, the 15 members of the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution for an immediate ceasefire in the oil-rich North African country and tightened an arms embargo.

The council also moved to impose sanctions on the militias and their political supporters, amid mounting alarm that full-blown civil war could erupt in Libya.

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