Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageOp-Ed: Reports differ on helicopter crash near Tripoli, Libya

By Ken Hanly     Nov 1, 2015 in World
Tripoli - There are varying reports about the number on board the helicopter that went down and how many were killed, but there is also disagreement about whether the helicopter was even shot down.
The most common account of the crash is that it resulted from anti-aircraft fire that caused it to crash into the sea near Al Maya coast, just 27 km west of Tripoli. A Deutsche Welle report claims the helicopter was carrying 23 people and that one dozen bodies had been recovered. Colonel Mustafa Sharkasi an air force spokesperson for the GNC government said that the helicopter was not armed. He blamed the attack on groups who are allied with the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government in Tobruk. Other sources claim that the specific group that controls the area, the Tribes Army, was responsible for the attack. The HoR government has denied any responsibility for the incident.
Colonel Ayoub Gassim, a spokesperson for GNC naval forces, claimed when they first examined the wreckage, parts of the debris contained bullet holes. He said: "When we first went by boat to retrieve the bodies, we were attacked from the coast near the Almaya area." Tripoli-allied groups arrived in the area and the firing stopped.
ABC also reported the helicopter was shot down. The report claims it was carrying 16 people and bodies of nine passengers, including senior members of the GNC-associated militia, had been recovered. The Voice of America also reports that the helicopter was shot down but it was unclear how many were aboard, although some senior GNC military officials had been killed.
The account given by the UN Support Mission in Libya(UNSMIL) is entirely different. In its account the helicopter just crashed. No mention of reports that it was hit by anti-aircraft fire, let alone who might have fired at the helicopter: The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has learnt of the crash of a helicopter near Zawiya west of Tripoli on 27 October 2015, reportedly killing all passengers onboard, including military officers and brigade commanders. The Mission regrets the loss of life and calls on the parties to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any action that would further escalate tensions.
Almost every other report I have seen, even in mainstream media, mentions the helicopter was reportedly shot down. For UNSMIL it is simply a crash, the cause of which UNSMIL does not even seem to have inquired. It does request an open and transparent investigation into the cause of the crash but it is not clear who would do this or whether local militia would allow inspectors on the scene, although Tripoli authorities could probably secure the crash area at least. While saying nothing about the reports of anti-aircraft fire downing the plane, UNSMIL asks the parties to exercise maximum restraint and not take action to further escalate tensions. If the helicopter simply crashed, why would the parties need to exercise "maximum restraint" or feel the need to "further escalate tensions"? Notice that the UNSMIL does not mention who the "parties" are it is talking about. I call this type of discourse "nonspeak." UNSMIL news releases are filled with this type of nonspeak although when they feel the need they can name names. It is always permissible to name the Islamic State.
The GNC Ministry of Defence declared a state of emergency following the shooting down of the helicopter. The Wirshiffana region it declared a military zone, and advised civilians to avoid it. The General Staff of the Libyan Army(GNC) claimed the helicopter was shot down by militants connected to the Tribes Army, which it described as the armed wing of General Haftar's Operation Dignity in western Libya. Haftar is the commander of the armed forces of the HoR government. Operation Dignity was begun back in May of 2014 to clear Libya of Islamists, among whom Haftar includes all the armed forces of the GNC.
According to the pro-GNC Libya Observer the residents of towns west of the Wirshiffana region such as Al-Zawiaya, Sobratha, and Zuwara had been using boats and helicopters and avoided using the highway to Tripoli for security reasons in order to access the capital. This has all happened since an agreement by Misrata militia, Al-Halboos, Al-Mahjoob and Al-Mirdas brigades to turn control of the highway to the Tribes Army. The highway is now no longer secure. The GNC asked other revolutionary groups to help it clear the Tribes Army from the area but not all agree. According to the pro-HoR Libya Herald both the Al-Halbous, and Al-Mahjoub brigades have rejected calls for military action in the Wirshiffana area against the Tribes Army. This is hardly surprising, since they were part of the agreement to hand over the area to the Tribes Army. It is not clear what the GNC forces have done so far.
Perhaps there will be further negotiations. The UNSMIL release notes that there have a number of successful cease fires in the area. However, they make no mention of the Tribes army or the situation on the highway outside of Tripoli controlled by the Tribes Army. The latest news release from UNSMIL praises attempts to defuse the situation after the helicopter crash: The Mission highly appreciates the efforts towards defusing tensions made by the people and officials in the cities of Rajban, Zintan, Misrata, Sebratha and Assabaa with Warshafana and Zawiya. UNSMIL considers these efforts a good example of the ability of the Libyans to make peace among each other and their determination to end the fighting.This strengthens the dialogue efforts towards reaching agreement, which will no doubt ensure the unity and independence of Libya and allow the Libyans through a national unity government that represents them to bring peace and stability to the country. This release is notable by naming names at least of cities. Note the name Tribes Army does not come up nor the GNC armed forces Libya Dawn or others. "Operation Dignity" will never be referenced, I expect, by the UNSMIL. It may be that municipal authorities have been able to convince the Tribes Army that if they want to stay in control of the highway, they will have to stop fighting the GNC or else face a battle they cannot win since they will not have the support of other militias.
What UNSMIL has yet to report on is the dialogue process. Talks were to begin again last Tuesday but a new week is beginning and there has not been a word about the process that is supposedly of the utmost urgency. The new Government of National Accord was to be up and running by October 20. The HoR mandate ran out a day later and its status is of doubtful legality. There was a report in Sputnik on October 29 by Arish Saeed, chair of the HoR International Information Authority that the new Government of National Accord would be announced any day now. So far this release by the International Information Authority, Saeed, has not trickled down into the international mainstream press, the UNSMIL news site, or even the pro-HoR Libya Herald. Perhaps news of the formation of a unity government in Libya simply cannot compete with discussion of Hillary Clinton emails.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about GNC government libya, libya helicopter crash, UNSMIL, Bernardino Leon
More news from
Latest News
Top News