Forces allied to Libya’s eastern government carried out an airstrike against a military transport aircraft on Tuesday, wounding the head of the military council from the rival city of Misrata, Reuters reports.
The airstrike and preceding clashes between the two military forces has raised fears of an escalation of violence in Libya’s central desert region.
There have been mounting tensions between forces linked to the western port city of Misrata and the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).
The two sides were in opposing military alliances that fought for control of Tripoli in 2014, leaving Libya with two competing governments.
While the LNA, led by Khalifa Haftar, is linked to the Tobruk government of the East, Misrata forces are loosely aligned with the GNA, the U.N.-backed government of the west. .
According to Reuters, the LNA reported that one of its fighter jets struck a C-130 transport plane parked in Jufra that was believed to be delivering arms and ammunition to ‘terrorist’ groups in the area.
The LNA has carried out previous strikes nearby against forces including Islamist fighters that it says have been attempting to attack and take over the eastern oil fields under LNA control.
However, an air force spokesman in Misrata, Mohamed Gnounou, denied the aircraft was transporting weapons, saying the C-130 was carrying a visiting delegation from Misrata.
Gnounou said he was speaking on behalf of forces allied to the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.
"We, the emergency operations room of air forces of the GNA consider this a criminal act. However, in the interests of Libyans, we will respond wisely," he told Reuters.
The LNA has been bolstered by military gains in Benghazi and their capture of the oil ports, and now intend to retake Tripoli from the armed groups that it says control both the capital and the GNA.
Since the uprising and NATO intervention that lead to the ousting and killing of Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi five years ago, Libya remains without a single government, rocked by political divisions and violent infighting.
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