UPDATE: BDB claim downing of LNA helicopter after arrests of alleged BDB supporters in Soloug and Gemenis
By Maha Sulaiman.
Benghazi, 17 July 2016:
The so-called Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) claim to have shot down a helicopter belonging to the Libyan National Army (LNA) near Magrun, the small town currently in BDB hands on the coastal highway 30 kilometres south of Gemenis and Soloug, and about 70 kilomtres south of Benghazi. The LNA, however, says that the helicopter, a Mi-17 gunship, crashed as a result of a technical failure. The four-member crew are reported to have been killed, but there is also confusion as to who they were.
LNA sources say all were Libyans. The BDB’s media outlet, BoshraNews, claims two were foreigners.
The incident comes after police and security forces last night arrested an undisclosed number of people in Gemenis and Soloug, accusing them of collaborating with the BDB.
According to a military source in Soloug, the security forces claim that those arrested are local Islamists, who helped the BDB to seize Magrun and were preparing to help them take the two towns. The source also said that the the Libyan National Army (LNA) was planning to attack the BDB, which is backed by Sadek Al-Ghariani.
The inability so far of the LNA to halt the BDB, which is said to now have no more than three of four dozen armed vehicles, has surprised many. A week ago, it claimed to have routed the BDB south of Ajdabiya and captured its leader, the Misratan Islamist commander Mustafa Sharksi. But the claim was denied by the BDB and further put in doubt by the LNA’s inability to produce any photos of him in captivity.