Italian Air Force C-130 J airlifts wounded Libyan soldiers to Rome
The Italian Air Force (IAF) has confirmed that it flew a Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules mobile hospital aircraft to Benina, Libya to evacuate 22 injured members of the Libyan National Army (LNA) to Rome where they are being treated at the Celio Military Hospital. By Oscar Nkala
The LNA is the army of the 'House of Representatives' (HOR), one of Libya's two rival governments based in the city of Tobruk. Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011, its forces have battled militias and the less-popular UN-backed Libyan Presidency Council government, which is based in the capital Tripoli.
In an statement, the Italian Ministry of Defence said the operation to airlift LNA soldiers wounded in the recent flare-up of fighting with militias in the east was carried out on March 16.
Italian Foreign minister Angelino Alfano said the operation in support of the LNA in the Benghazi area was part of a broader Italian mission to provide humanitarian aid to Libya and its forces that are fighting against international terrorism.
“Our action (in Libya) does not stop here. We will continue to provide assistance with the provision of emergency medical kits to hospitals across the country," he said.
The Italian C-130 J mobile hospital was the first to use Benina airport since late 2014 when it was closed down after being damaged during fighting between rival militias.
On March 14, HOR President Ageel Saleh told Russian news agency Sputnik that more wounded LNA soldiers were being flown to Moscow for treatment in line with an agreement between the two governments. However, he did not reveal whether the Russian Aerospace Forces (RAF) were involved in airlifting the wounded soldiers.