Troops loyal to Libyan marshal Khalifa Haftar said on Tuesday they shot down a fighter plane from the National Unity Government ( GNA ) forces south of the capital Tripoli, and arrested his pilot presented as “a Portuguese mercenary.”
In the midst of instability since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya is the scene of new deadly clashes since the launch on 4 April by Marshal Haftar, the strongman of the east of the country, an offensive on Tripoli, the headquarters of the GNA recognized by the international community.
According to an official Facebook page of the Libyan National Army ( ANL ) self-proclaimed by Marshal Haftar, a Mirage F1 was shot down in the Al-Hira region, 70 km south of Tripoli. So far, the GNA forces have neither denied nor confirmed this information.
The ANL has published photos of the alleged pilot, who appears to be wounded in the head, claiming that he is a “Portuguese mercenary”. On one of them, one can see the commander of the military operations of the ANL in the western region, General Abdessalem al-Hassi, alongside a man receiving care.
Other photos and videos of the alleged pilot, face and uniform stained with blood, circulated on social networks.
On one of the videos of a few seconds, taken from the back of a pickup truck, one of the ANL fighters asks him in English if he is a soldier. “No, I am a civilian,” he replies.
In another video published by a pro-Haftar website, the pilot claims to be from “Portugal” and to be 29 years old.
Asked about his activities in Libya, he replied: “I was asked to destroy roads and bridges” as part of a “civil contract” he said in English.
Asked by AFP , a spokeswoman for the Portuguese Ministry of Defense said that “no Portuguese Air Force pilot is missing, that (the Air Force) does not is not currently on a mission in Libya and does not have a Mirage F1 in his fleet “.
In mid-April, the GNA forces claimed to have shot down an ANL fighter jet south of the capital Tripoli.
After a rapid progression, the troops of Marshal Haftar trample for more than one month at the gates of Tripoli, barred by the forces loyal to the GNA . Fighting takes place daily in the southern suburbs of the capital and south of the city.
Both sides accuse each other of using foreign mercenaries and receiving military support from foreign powers.