(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Defending Benghazi Brigade (DBB), a militia group in eastern Libya, is reported to have shot down a helicopter carrying French special forces on Sunday.
The Libyan officials who reported the crash on Tuesday have requested to remain anonymous as they report to not have authority to speak to the press. One of the Libyan officials is an air force officer and the other is employed by Western missions in Libya. Both were familiar with those who were onboard the helicopter.
Only two have been reported dead from the crash, both were French troops onboard the helicopter.
France’s Ministry of Defence was questioned about the involvement of its troops in Benghazi but they refused to reply claiming that protocol does not allow them to to make information about their special forces public.
The DBB is reporting that it shot down a helicopter belonging to their rival, General Khalifa Haftar’s forces. They claim to have used SA-7 shoulder-fired missile and heavy artillery to shoot down the helicopter.
Together the reports from DBB and the Libyan officials suggest that Haftar is working with French special forces and is providing the French with helicopters and the jurisdiction to fly in Benghazi and operate militarily. This is contrary to statements made by the EU in support of the UN-backed government in Tripoli saying it will not sell arms to Haftar for refusing to recognize the Tripoli government.
The involvement of French in Haftar’s operations and the recent leaked tape recordings gives rise to speculations that some western states may be protecting their own interests in Libya contrary to a public position of support to the Government of National Accord (GNA). If this is true, it places questions around the United Nation’s current role in Libya and whether it is truly supporting Libya’s transition to democracy when its member states are working against the UN-backed Tripoli Government by empowering its rivals and the continued military division in the country.
As for Haftar these events further question his claim to be invested in Libya’s future rather than his own interest. His public declaration of being at odds with Western powers and even at certain time challenging their threats to stop weapons from reaching his forces are inconsistent with recent events.