Crashed: Onlookers surround the wreckage of a U.S Air Force F-15E fighter jet after it crashed near the eastern city of Benghazi. The fighter jet crashed in Libya overnight after apparent mechanical failure. Both men ejected safely and escaped with only minor injuries
Villagers told them ‘Don’t be scared, we are your friends’
Six Libyan villagers are recovering in hospital after being shot by American soldiers coming in to rescue the U.S. pilots whose plane crash-landed in a field.
The helicopter strafed the ground as it landed in a field outside Benghazi beside the downed U.S. Air Force F-15E Eagle which ran into trouble during bombing raid last night.
And a handful of locals who had come to greet the pilots were hit – among them a young boy who may have to have a leg amputated because of injuries caused by a bullet wound.
The first confirmed casualties of the allied operation, the Channel Four’s International Editor Lindsey Hilsum confirmed the civilian casualties.
The crew of the fighter plane had enjoyed a miraculous escape after suffering suspected mechanical failure during the third night of air strikes on Colonel Gaddafi’s military positions.
As one crew member was surrounded by locals, he held his arms out, calling ‘okay, okay’, according to the Evening Standard – but the grateful Libyans queued to thank him and give him juice.
Younis Amruni told the newspaper: ‘I hugged him and said “Don’t be scared, we are your friends”. We are so grateful to these men who are protecting the skies.’
The plane, based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, had set off from Aviano in Italy but came down at Bu Mariem, some 24 miles east of Benghazi.
The jet’s wreckage is set to be recovered or destroyed by the Americans, to prevent the plant coming into Gaddafi’s hands, while the crew were seen by a doctor in the rebel stronghold before being taken to a U.S. ship.