Tripoli, 20 February 2014:
Italian aircraft yesterday joined in the search for evidence of an Air Force helicopter that went missing shortly after taking off from Essider last Wednesday.
The Italian aircraft is apparently fitted with a special system that allows it to search for debris lying underwater on the seabed.
More than 20 sorties had already been carried out by Libyan pilots, Culture Minister Habib Al-Amin said. He added that local residents, especially those who owned four wheel drive vehicles, had also joined in the search.
Following the discovery of some wreckage believed to be from the helicopter, he said, the search had been narrowed down to an area of some 40 miles around where radio contact was lost with the helicopter.
Amin said the Americans were also involved with efforts to establish the fate of the helicopter.
There were five Air Force personnel on board the helicopter when it went missing last week. Families of the men, dissatisfied with what they saw as slow progress by authorities, blockaded Benghazi’s Benina Airport from Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning until the government agreed to step up search operations. [/restrict]