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Eastern Libyan forces warplane makes emergency landing in Tunisia, pilot held - LNA

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TUNIS (Reuters) - A warplane belonging to eastern Libyan forces fighting the internationally recognised Tripoli government made an emergency landing in Tunisia on Monday and the pilot was detained, the self-declared eastern foreign ministry said.

Negotiations with Tunisian authorities to secure the release of the pilot were under way, the ministry said in a statement.

The plane landed on a road in the southern Tunisian town of Beni Khadash, Tunisia’s state news agency TAP said. Tunisia’s defence ministry said the pilot informed the authorities that he was forced to make the landing after his plane was damaged.

Tunisia’s air force scrambled jets to intercept the L-39 but it landed first, a defence ministry statement said.

Witnesses said the plane touched down on a road and was surrounded by civilian vehicles that stopped to watch.

Libya has been splintered by violent turmoil since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi. The eastern Libyan National Army under Khalifa Haftar is trying to take Tripoli from forces allied to the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), but the LNA offensive has bogged down on the capital’s outskirts.

Reporting By Tarek Amara;additional reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli and Ayman al-Warfalli in Benghazi; Editing by Mark Heinrich