Islamic militants have shot down a jet over the country’s second largest city of Benghazi, according to the Libyan air force chief of staff.
The fighter plane was downed while carrying out airstrikes against Islamic militants, and is the third to have crashed in nearly 40 days.
Libyan air force chief of staff Brig. Gen. Saqr al-Jaroushi said that a Libyan MIG32 came under fire by militants’ anti-aircraft guns in the eastern city of Benghazi early evening local time.
The plane was ‘shot down in Qaryunes, northwest Benghazi, as it bombed positions of the (Mujahedeen) Shura Council’, a coalition of Islamist militias close to Al-Qaeda, according to a military spokesman.
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Shot down: Libyan air force chief Saqr al-Jaroushi said the jet was shot down by militants by anti-aircraft guns in the eastern city of Benghazi
Benghazi: According to local media Libya al Hurra TV a loud explosion was heard in the suburbs of Benghazi
Al-Jaroush said that the pilot ejected and landed safely – although his whereabouts were unknown, and initial reports from ISIS linked outlets claimed fighters were looking for any survivors from the crash.
The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group claimed its fighters downed the plane, according to SITE Intelligence Group, a US monitor of jihadist activity on the Internet.
It’s not the first time ISIS has claimed to have shot down a plane in Libya, with IS-linked A’maq Media releasing a video purportedly showing the attack on in early January.
The news site also published a short six-second video showing the shooting down of the jet this evening.
Al-Jazeera Arabic also reported that the jet was shot down by ISIS.
It has also been reported that the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council (BRSC), a Islamist group of militias who have unofficially sworn allegiance to ISIS have claimed the attack.
Al-Jaroushi said army is investigating whether ‘terrorists have acquired new weapons capable of shooting down our planes.’
It was the second military air crash this week.
On Monday, another MiG-23 operated by forces loyal to Libya’s recognised government crashed near the eastern city of Derna after attacking IS positions.
LANA news agency, which is close to the recognised government, blamed ‘technical problems’ for the downing.
Before crashing, the fighter had carried out raids on IS positions around 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Derna.
The air force answers to the internationally-recognized government in eastern Libya, where forces have been fighting Islamic militants since 2014.
In western Libya a rival parliament, backed by Islamist-allied militias, is in control.
ISIS control the coastal stronghold of Sirte and has made progress west towards Misrata in recent weeks.