AFRICOM Says Two Russian MiG-29 Fighter Jets Crashed in Libya

Two Russian MiG-29 “Fulcrum” fighter jets have crashed in Libya, according to Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, the Director of Intelligence at the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM).

According to a tweet by Jared Szuba, the Pentagon correspondent for Al-Monitor, one jet crashed on June 28 while the second one crashed on Sept. 7.

Rear Adm. Berg said that the Russian fighter aircraft are engaged in combat airstrikes in Libya with the AFRICOM believing them to be piloted by Russian Wagner paramilitary contractors. She added that it is not clear whether the jets were shot down, suffered mechanical failure or crashed because of pilot error.

In May, AFRICOM confirmed the deployment of Russian fighter aircraft to Libya which it said was to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors (PMCs) operating on the ground, such as the Wagner Group.

According to AFRICOM, the fighter aircraft arrived in Libya, from an airbase in Russia, after transiting Syria (Hmeimim Air Base) where they were “repainted to camouflage their Russian origin”. AFRICOM reported that at least 14 MiG-29 fighter aircraft and several Su-24 “Fencer” attack aircraft were flown from Russia to Syria.

U.S. called the deployment a “direct violation of the United Nations arms embargo”. According to the AFRICOM statement released at the time, the Russian military aircraft were “likely to provide close air support (CAS) and offensive fires for the Wagner Group PMC” that is supporting the rebel general Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) in its fight against the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

LNA is based in Benghazi while GNA is based in Tripoli. Turkey is militarily backing GNA while Haftar is supported by Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Egypt.

U.S. has been accusing Russia of employing “state-sponsored Wagner” in Libya to “conceal its direct role” and to afford Moscow “plausible deniability of its malign actions”.

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