Civilians killed in airstrike as violence in Libya escalates

Libyan government war planes targeting an Islamist militia killed eight civilians in an airstrike near Tripoli, the U.S. ambassador said Monday.

Air Force Commander Saqer al-Joroushi said the attack occurred in the town of Tarhouna -- which has been held by an armed rebel group, Reuters reported.

U.S. Ambassador Deborah K. Jones reacted to the reports via Twitter. “Terrible news today from Tarhouna, where 8 innocent displaced Tawergha killed in airstrikes," Jones tweeted, referring to a minority group in Libya.

"This violence serves no one's interests," said Jones, who is based outside Libya.        

Also Monday, soldiers shot down a war plane flown by the rival, Tripoli-based government that's allied with Islamist militias, an official with Libya's internationally recognized government, Mohammed al-Masri said.

The plane was downed after it bombed Zintan, a mountainous western town supportive of the elected government. There was no immediate report of casualties.

Libya is split between rival governments and warring militias after its 2011 civil war and the death of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. It also faces the rise of an affiliate of the Islamic State group.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.