U.S. military denies reports helicopter opened fire on Libyan civilians during rescue mission

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

File photograph of a V-22 Osprey.
Image: U.S. Navy.
Wikinews understands the Pentagon is to open an investigation into the rescue mission.
Image: Mariordo.

A spokesperson for the United States military has tonight categorically denied reports of a U.S. helicopter opening fire on Libyan civilians during a rescue mission of two fighter pilots who crashed near the eastern city of Benghazi.

Conflicting reports have emerged of the mission to rescue the two U.S. fighter pilots who ejected from their aircraft. The F-15E Strike Eagle that they were flying reportedly suffered a mechanical failure on Monday night and crashed. Soon after the accident, a U.S. military helicopter landed in the area to extract the airmen and reportedly opened fire on civilians, wounding six of them.

Unconfirmed reports indicate the six civilians were taken to a hospital in the area after being fired upon by the helicopter, a V-22 Osprey. One of the wounded, a young boy, was shot in the leg, which will likely now require amputation. Another of those reported injured said the shooting caused "great panic." Wikinews understands the Pentagon is to open an investigation into the rescue mission.

However, a U.S. military spokesperson denied the reports "one hundred percent", and said the incident "didn't happen". He said the aircraft which rescued the two airman was not fitted with weapons. "The Osprey is not armed and the Marines barely came off the aircraft," he said.

The pilot of the fighter aircraft was extracted during the rescue mission, while the weapons officer was found and cared for by Libyan rebels before later being retrieved by American forces. Both crew members suffered only minor injuries, the military said. The fighter aircraft was deployed over Libya in support of the no-fly zone approved by the United Nations Security Council over Libya as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

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