Libya’s UN-backed government says its military has shot down a fighter jet belonging to the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA), led by strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are fighting for the control of the capital Tripoli.
The country has been divided between two rival governments, the House of Representatives, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and the internationally-recognized government of Fayez al-Serraj, or the Tripoli-based unity Government of National Accord (GNA). Haftar is presumably loyal to the one in the east.
“The forces of the Libyan army shot down an enemy plane that was preparing to conduct air raids in the Wadi al-Rabie area,” some 30 kilometers south of the capital, GNA spokesman Mohamed Gnounou said on Sunday.
The downing of an LNA warplane came just three days after Haftar’s forces announced that they had shot down a GNA Aero L-39 Albatros plane, a Czech-made training jet often used in a ground attack role, that had took off from Misrata, a mostly pro-GNA port city.
A self-styled general, Haftar, who enjoys the loyalty of a group of armed militia and backing from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt, has taken it upon himself to protect the government in Tobruk. And while he participated in reconciliation talks with the GNA, he has recently ordered his LNA forces to invade and conquer Tripoli, the seat of GNA.
Armed forces and militia loyal to the GNA have been fighting back.
Haftar meets with Egypt’s Sisi
Additionally on Sunday, Haftar met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, an ardent supporter of the LNA, at the presidential palace in the capital Cairo, and according to state newspaper al-Ahram, they were “discussing the latest developments in Libya,”
Egypt has provided funding and arms to Haftar’s forces and regards him as a bulwark against Takfiri militants in Libya, with which it has some 1,200 kilometers of shared border to the west.
A patchwork of militant groups based in the east of the country has resisted United Nations efforts to establish a government of national unity.
Haftar, who has modeled his political style of authoritarian leadership after Sisi, has so far defied frequent international calls to stop his battle to oust the GNA.
Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced deep concern regarding the outcome of the soaring conflicts for the African nation, strongly urging Haftar to halt the advancement toward the capital, but all to no avail.
Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a NATO military intervention. His ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of numerous militant outfits, including the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.