A U.S. Air Force veteran held captive for six weeks by the Libyan military amid allegations that he was a hired mercenary was freed by the U.S. government on Tuesday, the Washington Post first
Jamie Sponaugle, a 31-year-old mechanic who served on active duty between 2006 and 2013, was captured by the Libyan National Army after his aircraft "went down" near the country's capitol of Tripoli on May 7, several unnamed U.S. government official told the Washington Post.
Sponaugle served as an active-duty airman from November 2006 until April 2013, and he went on to serve in the Air National Guard from December 2013 to February 2017, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.
His Air Force Specialty Code was command and control battle management ops and he left the service as an E-5 staff sergeant. When he left active-duty, he was serving as an airspace technician with 6 Medical Support Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
Sponaugle's military awards include the Air Force NCO Professional Military Education Ribbon, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Combat Readiness Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Service Ribbon with Gold Border, Iraq Campaign Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Meritorious Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, and Nuclear Deterence Operations Service Medal.
He was accused by the LNA, one of the two major political factions currently locked in a civil war for control of the country, of "piloting a Mirage F1, a French-made combat jet, while conducting bombing missions against its forces in the area," according to the Washington Post.
On May 8, the day after Sponaugle's reported downing, LNA claimed it had shot down a Portuguese mercenary "flying a Mirage F1 warplane of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord," the LNA's main political rival.
The Washington Post confirmed that video footage published by an Libyan media outlet that same day showed a bloodied Sponaugle receiving medical treatment and identifying himself as a 29-year-old Portuguese national named "Jimmy Rees."
"It's not clear whether Sponaugle violated U.S. law by working for or fighting with any party in Libya," the Washington Post notes. "Many countries including the United States employ foreign security contractors, who can play a variety of roles and are sometimes armed."
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