U.S. fighter jet crashes in rebel-held Libya

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2011 10:49 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - A U.S. Air Force F-15E fighter jet crashed in Libya overnight after a mechanical failure but its crew was safe, a spokesman for the U.S. military Africa Command said on Tuesday.

Libyan rebels rescued the pilot after he ejected from the warplane, which came down near the eastern city of Benghazi, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on its website.

U.S. spokesman Vince Crawley declined to give the location of the crash and also would not say how the rescued crewman was picked up or where he was taken.

Another spokesman for the Stuttgart-based Africa Command said later the second crewman had also been safely rescued, and both crew members had suffered only minor injuries after ejecting from the aircraft.

The aircraft, based out of England, was flying out of Aviano Air Base in Italy when it experienced an equipment malfunction over northeast Libya, a military statement said.

The Telegraph web site showed local Libyans inspecting the charred wreckage of the plane.

President Barack Obama, who was on a trip to Latin America, was notified of the downed jet early Monday evening and was kept apprised of the situation during a state dinner in Santiago, Chile, a White House official told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Western forces carried out a third night of air raids overnight aimed at protecting civilians from forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

(Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington and Keith Weir in London; editing by Tim Pearce, John Whitesides and Paul Simao)