TRIPOLI – Forces loyal to the government in Tripoli downed on Sunday a military plane belonging to the troops of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, a security official told EFE.
The warplane was shot down while flying over the southern part of Tripoli in an effort to get past the areas of Wed al Rabie and Kasr Ben Ghashir, where the forces loyal to the government backed by the United Nations attacked it.
“The military aircraft was going to launch attacks on civilians in the capital and the Mitiga International Airport,” the official said, without providing details about casualties.
The MiG-23 had taken off from al-Watiya military air base, located in the western section of the capital, media reports said, citing a spokesman for the Tripoli government’s media center, Mustafa al Madjei.
The shootdown coincided with the visit Hafter paid to Egypt, where he met with President Abdelfatah al Sisi, one of his main allies.
Combat broke out on April 4, when Hafter ordered his troops to launch an offensive on the capital during a visit by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, sending a clear message to the international community.
He aims to gain control over the capital, which would let him dominate the whole country, expect for the city state of Misrata, after years of division and civil war.
Since then, the fighting, which has left more than 50 people dead and some 50 others wounded, and has forced over 8,000 people to flee their homes, has occurred on a daily basis around the old Tripoli international airport, which has a high strategic value for Hafter’s forces in their bid for control of the capital.
Libya has been a failed state and victim of chaos and civil war ever since NATO helped the different rebel groups topple the dictatorship of Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011.
Since 2014, there have been two conflicting powers, a government supported by the UN in Tripoli – which controls the capital and some areas to the west – and another in the eastern city of Tobruk under the rule of the controversial marshal, who dominates around 70 percent of Libyan territory.