Libya: Flights diverted after rocket attack on Tripoli airport

Attack on airport comes less than a week after the UN brokered a truce between rival armed groups in Libyan capital.

    The interior of Mitiga airport is seen empty following the attack [Hani Amara/Reuters]
    The interior of Mitiga airport is seen empty following the attack [Hani Amara/Reuters]

    Rockets were fired at Libya’s only functioning airport in Tripoli late on Tuesday, forcing flights to be diverted less than a week after the UN brokered a fragile truce between rival militias in the capital.

    The airport had only reopened on Friday, following a week-long closure due to deadly fighting between militias in and around Tripoli.

    A new group known as the Tripoli Youth Movement claimed responsability for the attack. In a Facebook video posted on Sunday, the group called on maintenance workers to evacuate the airport. 

    They also demanded that armed militias operating under the internationally-recognised Government National Accord (GNA) give back control of the airport to civilian authorities.   

    Reporting from Tripoli, Al Jazeera's Mahmoud Abdelwahed said authorities have asked that planes stationed at Mitiga airport be flown out to other facilities. 

    "Authorities are worried that the planes might get damaged by some of the stray rockets which may land in the area," Abdelwahed said.

    There were no reports of casualties or material damage at Mitiga airport as a result of Tuesday’s attack but Libyan television channels reported that several people were wounded by rockets elsewhere, one of which landed in the Mediterranean.

    A flight bound for Tripoli from neighbouring Egypt was rerouted to the city of Misrata, located 190 kilometres east of the capital, and airport officials said all flights would be rerouted.

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    Mitiga, a former military airport in the east of the city, was first opened to civil air traffic after the destruction of Tripoli's international airport in the capital's south during unrest in 2014.

    Tripoli has been gripped by a wave of violence since late August, as rival armed groups vying for control of the capital clashed along its southern districts.

    Armed fighters played a critical role in the overthrow of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but civilian authorities have since struggled to bring them under control.

    Separately, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility for a shooting attack on the headquarters of Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) in Tripoli, the group's news agency said on Tuesday.

    The attack on Monday killed two NOC staff and wounded 10, said officials, who described the three shooters who were also killed as "Africans."

    The group said that it had been targeting the "economic interests of oppressing governments funding crusaders," according to a statement carried by its Amaq news agency.

    It was the first attack of its kind against the leadership of Libya's state oil industry.

    Libya has been divided into rival administrations but the NOC had continued to function relatively normally across the country, which relies on oil exports for most of its income.

    Fighters loyal to ISIL have previously carried out attacks in Tripoli and other towns, despite having lost their stronghold in the central city of Sirte late in 2016.

    In May, ISIL claimed a deadly attack on the national election commission offices in Tripoli.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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