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A Libyan National Army (LNA) military helicopter that was transporting Russian private military contractors has crashed near al-Jufra Air Base in central Libya, Brig. Gen. Abdul Hadi Dara, a spokesman for the Sirte-Jufra Operations Room of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), claimed on September 23.
The helicopter, which was also carrying weapons, allegedly crashed near the town of Sawknah, to the southwest of al-Jufra. Several explosions were heard in the region. The GNA spokesman told Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency that at least four Russian PMCs lost their lives in the crash.
These claims were dismissed by the Libyan National Army (LNA), which reported that the helicopter touched the ground with the main rotor during an emergency landing. The aircraft caught fire and burned as a result of the incident. However, there were no casualties.
While a limited presence of Russia-linked PMCs in Libya is no secret, pro-GNA and pro-Turkish sources like to claim that almost every incident, crash or explosion involves the mysterious Russians and led to casualties among them. Likely, this approach is an attempt to compensate for the inability of the Turkish Armed Forces, GNA units and almost 10,000 Turkish-backed Syrian militants deployed in Libya to capture the port city of Sirte from the Libyan National Army. In fact, the mighty Turkish advance on LNA positions virtually ground to a halt after Turkish-led forces secured the countryside of Tripoli. The main reason for this being the red line drawn by Egypt, the main LNA backer along with the UAE, which warned that it will respond with direct military action if Sirte is attacked. At the same time, Russian participation in the ongoing standoff is mostly focused on distant diplomatic support to the UAE-Egypt block and diplomatic work with Turkey. Russian PMCs deployed in the conflict zone represent the interests of various Russian business groups rather than those of the state.
According to the US, there are 3,000 Russia-linked PMCs. Later, AFRICOM even claimed that Russia deployed 14 warplanes in Libya. These warplanes, the US military says, are based out of Al Jufra and Al Khadim airfields. They are allegedly operated by Russian contractors and have engaged in “combat activities”. Nonetheless, the Pentagon provided no evidence to support these claims.
On September 11, Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, AFRICOM’s director of intelligence, said that two Russia-deployed Mig-29 jets had already crashed: one on June 28, another on September 7. The statement came just a few days after an evacuation training video released by a Russian military blog was used by Turkish propaganda and MSM to claim that a Russian warplane had crashed in Libya. So, it looks as if the US military simply once again used sensational, unfounded reports to maintain an artificially created frightening image of Russia.
On September 23, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps released several close-up photos of the US Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its escort ships in the Persian Gulf. The photos were taken by an IRGC military drone that buzzed the US carrier strike group recently. The USS Nimitz passed through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf last week.
On the same day, 188 new naval drones and helicopters were officially added to the IRGC Navy’s fleet of aircraft. During the ceremony, three types of vertical take-off and landing drones, dubbed Sepehr, Shahab-2 and Hodhod-4, were unveiled for the first time. According to an IRGC Navy commander, all three drones can take off from ships. The batch of delivered equipment also included a number of Mohajer-6 combat drones. The Mohajer-6 has a range of 200 km and can be armed with up to four guided missiles.
Iran insists that it has a full spectrum of means and measures that it can employ against US naval forces and bases in the Persian Gulf region in the event of an open military confrontation. In their turn, the United States regularly deploys aircraft carriers in the gulf as a part of its own power projection policy. In April 2020, US President Donald Trump even stated that he had passed an order to “destroy any and all Iranian gunboats” if they harass US ships at sea. Taking into account that Iran sees the Persian Gulf as a vital area of national interest and cannot leave US strike groups there without close monitoring, the sides are balancing right on the brink of a new open confrontation.