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Another Libyan Air Force plane shot down or crashed in Benghazi

Accounts of what happened depend upon the political orientation of the source making the report. The Libya Observer, a news source favorable to the General National Congress(GNC) based in Tripoli in the west noted that the Shura Council claimed responsibility for downing the MiG 23, saying it was brought down in the Qaryounis district by an anti-aircraft missile. Two pilots were able to parachute from the burning plane but their fate is not known. After the plane was downed sources claim that there were heavy clashes between the Shura Council fighters and what the Observer calls Dignity Operation forces near the Tourist Village area. The Observer shows a photo it claims is one pilot parachuting from the burning aircraft.The forces tried to advance into the area to find and rescue the pilots but were forced to retreat under heavy fire. Operation Dignity was launched in May 2014 by the present commander in chief of the Libyan National Army to clear out Islamist from Benghazi and the rest of Libya. His targets included Libya Dawn the main militia supporting the GNC government, the rival to the internationally-recognized HoR government in Tobruk in eastern Libya. Haftar’s supporting troops are now part of the Libyan National Army. The HoR government and prime minister Al-Thinni support Operation Dignity.

The Libya Herald which usually opposes and is critical of the GNC reports the Benghazi event as a crash. The Herald reports the plane crashed in the Hawari district near the cement factory. The Herald just speaks of one pilot who it said ejected safely. The Libyan Air Force said that the plane crashed from a technical problem the same reason given for the Derna crash. The Herald does note that it was not possible to confirm whether the event was a crash or the plane was shot down.

The Herald says that the Islamic State claimed to have shot down the plane. whereas the Observer reported that the Shura Council took credit for shoot it down. The Islamic State is in conflict with the Shura Council although both battle against Haftar and Operation Dignity forces. The section of Hawari where the plane crashed is described by the Herald as “bandit territory, where IS can move freely”. There is no mention of the clash of Shura Council forces with those of Haftar who were attempting to rescue the pilot or pilots. The earlier event in Derna is dealt with in this article.

The MiG 23 is an ancient Soviet era plane that began production in the 1970s.The last model to be deployed by the Russian air force was retired on the first of May 1998. Between 1974 and 1976 the Gadaffi regime in Libya received 54 MiG 23s. Most of these were destroyed by allied bombing during the overthrow of Gadaffi but a few survived with some in the hands of the GNC but others operated by the HoR government and the Libya National Air Force. Most of Gadaffi’s air force was destroyed and so far neither the GNC nor the HoR have much capacity to carry out bombing missions against the Islamic State as a result.


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