At least six MiG-29s and two Sukhoi Su-24s, accompanied by two Russian Su-35 fighters, were spotted flying into eastern Libya last week, a senior Libyan security official said, amid signs of a possible escalation of the North African country's civil war.
The head of security in Libya's capital Tripoli, Fathi Bashagha, was quoted as saying that the jets had flown from Russia's Hmeimim Air Base in Syria. Eastern Libya is the stronghold of military leader Khalifa Haftar who has been fighting the UN-recognized government for several years.
The arrival of the jets came as Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) suffered a series of setbacks during the last week, and amid threats by Haftar to attack Turkish forces that have intervened in the civil war on behalf of the government. A Russian-made Pantsir air defense system used by the LNA was captured during the fighting, according to reports.
Libyan and Western officials were quoted by Bloomberg as saying Turkey has provided the central government with surface-to-air missile defense systems that have given it an advantage over armed drones operated by the UAE, which backs Haftar. Turkey has also deployed warships to waters near the capital and sent thousands of Syrian militiamen to fight on the side of the government .
Earlier this month, a leaked UN report said there are up to 1,200 mercenaries from a Russian military contractor engaged in combat alongside Haftar's forces