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Libyan Air Force plane shot down or crashed near Derna

Ansar al-Sharia is a member of the Shura Council of Jihadists of Derna, who now control the city. They drove the Islamic State from Derna last year but are still battling against IS or Daesh in areas near the city and the adjacent mountains. Derna was bombed by unidentified aircraft on Sunday. The attacks killed civilians and damaged a medical facility. The attack was condemned by the UN and both rival governments.

The Libyan Air Force has admitted the loss of the plane but said it crashed due to a mechanical failure. The plane had just recently returned to service after a major overhaul. Spokesperson for the Air Force Abdulkareem Sabra told Reuters news agency that the plane had been attacking Islamic State positions in the town and that the pilot had survived. The Islamic State has been driven out of the city but still has positions on the outskirts. Other sources say the plane went down east of Derna in the Sidi Khaled area. After, the raids yesterday, the new raids today did not hit IS positions at all but were directed at sites occupied by the Derna Shura Council. The Libyan air force denied any responsibility for the earlier raids. The Libyan ambassador to the Arab League from the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR),Ashour Burashi, said that the Sunday attacks on unarmed civilians and a hospital were a war crime.

The Libya Observer, a news source favorable to the General National Congress government in Tripoli, has a somewhat different version of events than the Libya Herald whose account I have just covered, although they agree on many points. The Observer speaks of the plane being from Khalifa Haftar’s air force. However, the Libya air force is headed not by Haftar but a close ally of his. The Observer claims the plane came down 35 kilometers to the west of Derna in the Sid Khalid area whereas the Herald sources claimed Sid Khalid is to the east. The Observer names the pilot as Younis Al-Dinali, who was obviously able to eject himself from the plane before it crashed.

Muftah Hamza, commander of a group called the Al-Hilah axis, said that the MIG-23 was part of Haftar’s air force and had taken off from Labraq airbase and claimed: “The warplane was hovering above Al-Fatayeh area and then it shelled 400 neighborhood randomly, which seems to be a coverage for the UAE’s bombing that targeted civilians in Derna Sunday.” He said the same plane had bombarded Al-Haijaj area. He said if Haftar actually wanted to target Islamic State positions he should have coordinated his attacks with his forces in Derna. Interesting that Hamza identifies the aircraft bombing Derna on Sunday as from the UAE.

GNC member, Mansour Al-Hasadi said that the air strikes on Derna on Sunday happened concurrently with a plan by fighters associated with the Derna Shura Council to attack Islamic State forces in the al-Fatayeh and neighborhood 400 areas on the east coast. However, the strikes hit civilian targets including the Kidney Disease Center of Al-Wahda Hospital. The Derna Shura Council issued a statement saying that Dignity Operation’s war on the Islamic State was simply a propaganda tool. Operation Dignity is a military operation designed to rid Libya of Islamists including Libya Dawn the militia that are the main armed forces of the rival General National Congress(GNC) government. It began in May of 2014 and is still ongoing. The operation is contradictory to the aims of the Libyan Political Agreement. Haftar opposes the Shura Council of Derna group as well as the Islamic State. The Derna rulers oppose Haftar but are on good terms with the rival GNC government. The HoR does not have any control over Derna.

A member of the General National Congress, Mansour Al-Hasadi, said sources confirmed that the airstrike that targeted Derna Sunday dawn was concurrent with a plan by the backup forces of Derna Shura Council to attack and eradicate IS/Daesh militants from Al-Fatayeh and neighborhood 400 areas on the east coast. In a press release, Al-Hasadi said that the bombing caused casualties and fatalities among the local civilians, and damaged buildings including Omar Ibn Al-Khattab mosque, as well as the Kidney Disease Center of Al-Wahda hospital. He claimed.“The unidentified airstrike coincided with a heavy fire opened by the IS militants as they endeavored to seize the opportunity and infiltrate into Bab Tobruk neighborhood and then tried to encircle the Shura revolutionaries in Al-Fatayeh axis.”

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