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Friday, November 6, 2015

Helicopter reported shot down near Tripoli in Libya with a least 15 killed

The Libya Observer, a news outlet that supports the General National Congress(GNC) based in Tripoli, reports that 15 people including civilians, military commanders, and sick people were killed in a crash near Al-Maya coast, 27 km west of Tripoli.
The municipal council of Al-Zawiya said seven bodies had been already recovered, including that of Sohaib Al-Ramah, a commander of the Al-Zawiya Martyr's Brigade, allied with the GNC government. Hussein Abu Diya, commander of the Western Military Region for the GNC forces, was also killed. A search was being carried on for more bodies. The helicopter apparently alsocarried cash from banks in the area as well.
Rescue crews claim to have found debris that showed signs of anti-aircraft fire. A spokesperson for General Staff of the GNC forces, Ali Al-Shaiekhi, claimed the helicopter had been shot down by what is called the Tribes Army, a militia in the area with links to General Haftar, commander of forces in the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government in the east. He has some support among militia in the west although a number of militia that formerly fought against GNC forces in the west have negotiated ceasefires. However, there have been several clashes recently with the Tribes Army near Tripoli. The group controls the Wirshiffana region near Tripoli. Residents of nearby Al-Zawiya have had to travel by helicopter or boat rather than travel by land through the area. Heavy clashes broke out between Al-Zawiya brigades and the Tribes Army militants in Al-Maya after the crash.
The helicopter was unarmed. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Representatives of the HoR Libyan Army have denied any responsibility for the incident. However, the Tribes Army could very well have obtained the anti-aircraft equipment from the east, assuming the helicopter was actually shot down.
The GNC Ministry of Defence declared a state of emergency after the helicopter crashed and issued a statement that they would take the necessary measures to punish those responsible for the attack. The General Staff of the Libyan (GNC) Army declared the Wirshiffana region where the Tribes Army operates as a military zone. Civilians were advised to avoid the area. The problems have arisen after an agreement between the Tribes Army and several Misrata militias that handed over control of the highway to Tripoli to the former group.
Meanwhile, talks between the two rival governments on the Libya Political Agreement(LPA) and formation of a Government of National Accord(GNA) are on hold. Leon originally planned to restart dialogue talks today, October 27, but no one seems yet ready. Leon has been in Cairo talking with Arab League and Egyptian officials in an attempt to gain support for his final draft of the LPA, which has yet to be approved by either of the two rival parliaments. At the same time, the president of the HoR is also in Egypt meeting with officials to try and gain support for rejection of the LPA. Both Egypt and the Arab League have supported commander of the HoR armed forces Khalifa Haftar in spite of the fact that he rejects the LPA. The earliest talks are expected now is on Thursday, but no announcement has been made yet. The UN is busy sponsoring a conference for Libyan media in Madrid, Spain.


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