London: The US military said on Tuesday that Russia recently deployed military fighter jets to Libya.
The US Africa Command said that these jets are likely to provide air support for the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor operating in Libya.
The statement also said that Moscow has hired a state-sponsored Libyan contractor to disguise its direct role and provide “reasonable denial” to Moscow’s actions.
General Stephen Townsend, commander of the US Mission in Africa, said: “As I saw (Russia) in Syria, they are using government-supported mercenaries such as Wagner to expand their military footprint in Africa.”
The statement warned that Russia ’s presence in Libya may “exacerbate regional turmoil that has led to turbulent crises affecting Europe”.
Since long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi was dismissed and killed in 2011, Libya has been in a state of chaos, with rivals in the East and West fighting for power.
In April, the United Nations-approved national reconciliation government rejected a unilateral truce proposed by the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), saying it “distrusted” them.
LNA is led by commander Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive last year to capture the capital Tripoli.
In recent months, Turkey has strengthened its support for the national reconciliation government and the militia supporting it, and his forces have suffered a series of setbacks.