Libyan govt shoots down ‘UAE drone’

Kuwait Times - - Internatio­nal -

TRIPOLI: Libya’s unity gov­ern­ment said yes­ter­day it had shot down an Emi­rati-sup­plied drone op­er­ated by forces led by east­ern com­man­der Khal­ifa Haf­tar near Mis­rata in west­ern Libya. The Tripoli-based Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord said its “anti-air­craft de­fences” had shot down the drone east of Mis­rata, Libya’s third largest city.

That came days af­ter the United Na­tions slammed “con­tin­ued bla­tant vi­o­la­tions” of a 2011 arms em­bargo, de­spite world lead­ers com­mit­ting in mid-Jan­uary to up­hold­ing the block­ade. The GNA yes­ter­day posted images on Face­book show­ing what ap­peared to be a Chi­nese-made Wing Loong drone. Ex­perts say Haf­tar has pro­cured a num­ber of the air­craft from his main backer, the United Arab Emi­rates.

Haf­tar, who con­trols much of east­ern and south­ern Libya, launched an of­fen­sive in April to seize the cap­i­tal Tripoli, in the coun­try’s north­west, from the GNA. His ad­vance stalled on the edge of the cap­i­tal, but in early Jan­uary he cap­tured the strate­gic coastal city of Sirte. On Sun­day his forces clashed with those of the GNA in the Abu Grein re­gion, on the road west from Sirte to­wards Mis­rata, the home­town of many of the forces back­ing the GNA. The ad­vanced UAE­sup­plied drones have given Haf­tar an ad­van­tage in the skies.

Tur­key has sup­plied the GNA with Bayrak­tar drones, but they have proven less so­phis­ti­cated and prone to be­ing shot down by Haf­tar’s forces. On Sun­day, Ger­many’s for­eign min­istry echoed UN con­cerns over arms flow­ing to Libya, cit­ing “a se­ries of un­con­firmed but cred­i­ble re­ports of em­bargo vi­o­la­tions on both sides”. That comes de­spite a Jan­uary 12 cease­fire an­nounced by Haf­tar backer Moscow and pro-GNA Ankara. Each side has re­peat­edly ac­cused the other of vi­o­la­tions. — AFP

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