Pilot of Libyan jet lands in Tunisia, reports plane problem

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TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A Libyan military jet trainer was forced to land on the outskirts of a city in southeast Tunisia after it violated Tunisian airspace, a Tunisian Defense Ministry spokesman said Monday.

Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ben Zerki said the Libyan pilot told Tunisian officials the aircraft had a “technical problem” but did not elaborate.

Ben Zerki said the plane, an L-39, was spotted at 7:30 a.m. on Tunisian radars, an alert went out and a Tunisian military aircraft scrambled the Libyan jet, forcing it to land in the southeastern city of Medenine.

The Foreign Ministry of the east-based government backing the self-styled Libyan National Army said in a statement the fighter jet suffered a technical failure and made an emergency landing in Tunisia.

A local correspondent with the Tunisian press told The Associated Press the jet landed on a dirt road. There are no airports in Medenine.

The Tunisian Army was leading the investigation into the incident, Ben Zerki said.

Radio Mosaique FM initially reported there were two pilots aboard the aircraft. A photo from the radio station showed a small aircraft on a dusty piece of land, with onlookers eyeing it

There was no immediate official confirmation of where in Libya the aircraft came from or for whom it was flying.

The country is torn by war between rival authorities in the east and west, each backed by various militias.

A spokesman for forces allied with the U.N.-supported government said earlier the aircraft was not theirs and claimed it belonged to Libyan National Army forces. Led by Khalifa Hifter, the forces currently are on an offensive near Tripoli, the capital.

Rumors abounded in Tunisia about why the fighter jet ended up in neighboring Tunisia, including those claiming that the pilot, from Misrata, fled from his mission.

Tunisia, which has taken in refugees fleeing the violence in Libya, is on constant alert for fallout from the violence next door.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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