“The reports have just emerged that the Libyan National Army shot down a military aircraft that departed from Misrata,” LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said at a news conference in Benghazi on Wednesday.
Media reports say the Aero L-39 Albatros plane, a Czech-made training jet often used in a ground attack role, belonged to the Government of National Accord (GNA) and was shot down over Qasr Bin Ghashir south of Tripoli.
Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was killed in a NATO military intervention that followed a popular uprising. Gaddafi’s ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of numerous militant outfits, including the Daesh terrorist group.
The GNA is the internationally-recognized government of Libya seated in Tripoli. But it has been unable to exercise state powers over the entire Libyan territory, where militia groups have been active since an uprising against the then-dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Another major power faction that lays a claim to power is based in the city of Tobruk, in Libya’s east. It has its own quasi-army, led by self-styled General Khalifa Haftar.
Last week, Haftar ordered his forces to advance on the capital, in what seems to be an attempt to unseat the GNA.
The political process and risks further escalation with serious consequence on their way to Tripoli, Haftar’s forces have overtaken several oil fields and towns, but have faced stiff resistance from forces loyal to the GNA near Tripoli, where they have been stopped. The situation is deadlocked, and fighting continues despite international calls for an end to hostilities.
The fighting between rival domestic forces continues near the capital Tripoli and elsewhere, and that prompted the UN to postpone a conference in Libya that had been meant to discuss the possibility of holding elections in the country.
UN postpones conference in Libya due to fightingThe United Nations postpones a conference in Libya aimed at drawing a roadmap for elections due to ongoing fighting between rival domestic forces.
France blocks EU call to stop Haftar’s offensive
Meanwhile, France on Wednesday blocked a European Union statement which called on Haftar to halt his forces’ offensive in Libya.
The draft statement, seen by Reuters, would have said that the military attack launched by Haftar on Tripoli was “endangering the civilian population, disrupting the political process and risks further escalation with serious consequences for Libya and the wider region, including the terrorist threat.”
France and Italy disagree on how to handle the latest escalation in the troubled North African country.
France, which has oil assets in eastern Libya, has provided military assistance in past years to Haftar in his eastern stronghold, Libyan and French officials say.
Italy, the former colonial power and a big player in Libya’s oil sector, has supported UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.