A MiG-23 fighter jet of Libya’s internationally recognized government has been shot down while carrying out airstrikes against militant positions in the coastal city of Benghazi.
Nasser el-Hassi, the spokesman for the government’s forces, told AFP on Friday that the aircraft was “shot down in Qaryunes, northwest Benghazi, as it bombed positions of the Shura Council” of Mujahideen in Derna, a coalition of militants close to al-Qaeda.
However, the SITE Intelligence Group, a US-based organization that tracks terrorists’ online activities, said that the Daesh terrorist group claimed responsibility for the downing of the plane.
The pilot ejected and landed safely, but his whereabouts were not immediately clear, a source said.
It was the second military plane crash in Libya this week. On Monday, another MiG-23 belonging to forces loyal to Libya’s recognized government crashed near the northeastern city of Derna after bombarding Daesh positions. The Libyan News Agency, which is close to the Tobruk-based government, blamed “technical problems” for the incident.
Another MiG-23 came down in Libya’s second largest city of Benghazi in early January.
Libya has been grappling with violence and political uncertainty since the oil-rich country’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was deposed in a 2011 uprising.
Armed groups and regional factions have been fighting for power over the past years.
Since August 2014, when militias seized the capital Tripoli, the country has had two parliaments and two governments with one, the General National Congress (GNC) run by the rebels in the capital, and the internationally-recognized administration in the northeastern city of Tobruk.
A coastal city located near the border with Egypt, Derna has often been described as the bastion of Daesh supporters in Libya since the terror group’s elements entered the city in early 2015.
Daesh, which has been engaged in heinous crimes in different parts of Iraq and Syria, emerged in Libya in February last year, after releasing a video that showed the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. The terrorist group also launched a parade on the streets of the coastal city of Sirte later that month.