In what appears to be a sign that the war in Libya is about to see some serious aerial campaigns, local activists have confirmed that Turkey has sent an army cargo plane suspected to be carrying hundreds of mercenaries, and the Turkish C-130 Hercules was escorted by six F-16 fighter aircraft.
The Turkish airplanes that took off from Istanbul were heading towards an international airport serving Misrata, a Mediterranean coastal city in the Misrata District of Libya. The airport also acts as an airbase and training center for the Libyan Air Force.
"Turkey is settling in for a long time in #Libya: Turkish Air Force's Erkilet based 222nd Squadron's Lockheed C-130 Hercules four-engine turboprop military transport climbed out of Istanbul Grand over Bosphorus and now is flying to Misrata. This is the 8th flight in the last 6days," tweeted journalist Yörük Işık.
The development has come just days after the US Military released 15 images while accusing Russia of secretly deploying at least 14 fighter jets in Libya. According to a report in The New York Times that the Russian warplanes are in Libya to bolster the Russian mercenaries who in recent weeks have suffered a series of losses against the Turkish-backed Libya forces.
In the Libyan civil unrest, Russia has allied with commander Khalifa Hifter and has been providing mercenaries to him to fight his campaign to overthrow the UN-supported Libyan government from Tripoli, the capital. However, the Russian interest in the proxy war in the last few weeks has suffered several major losses that have affected commander Hifter's campaign.
The Libya pro-government forces backed by Turkish mercenaries captured a major airbase west of Tripoli this Monday and before that the Turkish drones took out a recently arrived Russia air defense system, soon after that ousted Field Marshal Hifter's forces from a town south of Tripoli.
Stung by the series of defeats the former CIA asset, Field Marshal Hifter had promised that he will strike back with what would be "the largest aerial campaign in Libyan history" against Turkish targets in Tripoli.
There are already rumors that at least two Turkish F 16 fighter planes that were on a drill over the Mediterranean close to Libya were later station in Libya. Since January, Turkey has deployed hundred of mercenary soldiers and drones to assist Libya.
With more mercenaries and Turkish air force too joining the war, there are fears that the Libyan conflict could turn into a "pure proxy war."
The UN Security Council on May 19 held a meeting to discuss the developments in Libya. The members were briefed about the operation initiated about the Pro-government forces to control of the Wutiya airbase but were initially repelled by UAVs and snipers, resulting in dozens of fatalities May 5.
The GNA forces after repeated attempts, supported by multiple airstrikes conducted by drones, GNA forces took control of the airbase on May 18.
"The control of this strategic airbase may trigger further escalation, turning the Libyan conflict into a pure proxy war," the United Nations envoy to Libya, Stephanie Williams, warned the Security Council.
"As has been the case on a number of occasions, we witnessed the direct involvement of foreign parties in this operation, either with UAVs or the presence on the ground of air defense systems, in blatant violation of the arms embargo," Williams added.