BERLIN — A U.S. fighter jet crashed in Libya after an apparent equipment malfunction but both crew members were able to eject and are back safely in American hands, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
The plane crashed at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time Monday, said Vince Crawley, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command.
A spokesman for the Libyan opposition, Mohammed Ali, said the U.S. plane crashed about 25 miles southwest of the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city.
A Marine Corps Osprey search and rescue aircraft retrieved the pilot, while the second crew member, a weapon's officer, was recovered by rebel forces and is now in American hands, another U.S. official said in Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
The two were separated after ejecting from the crippled F-15E Strike Eagle jet at high altitude and drifting down to different locations, Crawley said, adding they sustained minor injuries.
The aircraft, based out of Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, was flying out of Italy's Aviano Air Base in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn. The cause of the crash is being investigated.
The Air Force has said only that B-2, F-15 and F-16 fighters are participating in operations over Libya. The U.S. involvement in Libya is being run by Africa Command, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany.
Africa Command launched in Oct. 2008 after the Pentagon abandoned efforts to base the command on the continent after it hit resistance among African nations, and instead posted about two dozen liaison officers at African embassies.
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