A pilot and two people on the ground were killed when a Libyan Air Force MiG-21 crashed in Tobruk yesterday, the latest in a string of incidents that has seen Libya’s military lose more than half a dozen aircraft this year alone.
The MiG-21 came down in a residential area of the eastern city of Tobruk, killing the pilot Rafa Al-Farani, two people on the ground and injuring nine others, the Libya Herald reports.
The aircraft was performing a low level flypast in honour of a pilot who had been shot down and killed on August 29. The MiG-21 was seen flying straight and level before losing control and diving into the ground, possibly due to a technical malfunction.
It is not clear what type of aircraft went down on August 29. The terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia claimed they shot the aircraft down with a missile but a spokesman for renegade General Khalifa Haftar said the aircraft crashed due to a technical problem while conducting air strikes against armed groups in eastern Libya. The pilot, Ibrahim al-Manfi, was killed in the crash.
Hafter has been fighting Islamist militants since May this year, especially in the area of Benghazi. Another of Haftar’s fighters crashed on July 29 in Benghazi, again due to a technical failure according to Haftar’s forces, but the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries claimed to have shot it down after it bombed their positions. The pilot ejected safely.
Libya has lost half a dozen aircraft this year, due to fighting and accidents. Several Libyan government aircraft were destroyed or damaged during militia clashes at Tripoli International Airport. A Border Patrol A109E Power was destroyed and another damaged while an Air Force Il-76T was hit by an RPG and burnt out on July 16.
A Libyan Air Force helicopter with eight people on board disappeared on February 12 while en route to Benghazi and is believed to have been shot down. It was apparently attacked with small arms fire as it took off and crashed into the sea.
The Libyan Air Force suffered another loss on February 21 when one of its Antonov An-26s crashed in Tunisia, killing eleven people on board following an engine fire. The aircraft was carrying patients for medical treatment in Tunisia.
Haftar has claimed responsibility for numerous air raids on Tripoli and Haftar spokesman Muhammad al-Hijaz has said that a number of Sukhoi Su-24 fighter-bombers were brought back into service after not having flown since the 2011 civil war. The Libyan Air Force base at Binina outside Benghazi is loyal to Haftar and has a number of flyable MiG-21s and MiG-23s.
However, Brigadier General Saqr Jarushi, former Libyan Air Force chief and current commander at Binina, last month said that Su-24s provided by a foreign air force had carried out airstrikes in Libya. Several days later it emerged that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates had carried out airstrikes against Islamist militants in Libya and that they had been supporting Haftar’s campaign for months. However, the airstrikes failed to stop militants seizing Tripoli International Airport and large parts of the city.