Benghazi, Oct 28: A helicopter carrying two senior officers allied to Libya's Islamist-backed Tripoli government was shot down on Thursday near the capitol, killing at least 14 of its 23 passengers, a Tripoli military official said.
Tripoli Chief of Staff spokesman Col Ali al-Sheikhi said the helicopter departed at noon to transport salaries to the town of Surman and was shot down near the coastal Almaya area west of Tripoli.
He added that 14 bodies had been retrieved so far but no survivors had been found. Tripoli-allied navy spokesman Col Ayoub Gassim said his forces were still looking through the wreckage, parts of which had bullet holes in it.
The area is rife with an assortment of rogue militias, armed human trafficking gangs and Islamist fighters. "When we first went by boat to retrieve the bodies, we were attacked from the coast near the Almaya area," he said, adding that Tripoli-allied forces then moved in and stopped the fire.
The two spokesmen said the senior officers were Col Salem Saqr, military commander of Libya's western region, and Col. Hussein Abudaia, head of the same region's operations room, who had been accompanied by civilian staff and soldiers.
Libya has fallen into chaos since the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The internationally recognised government is confined to the country's east, while a rival Islamist-led government holds the capital, Tripoli.