Tripoli's only functional airport shuts down after threats to shoot down aircraft
Johannesburg – The Libyan capital’s only functioning airport, Mitiga, has been forced to close again after threats to shoot down civilian and military aircraft, dealing yet another blow to hopes for peace as regional foreign ministers prepare to meet in neighbouring Algeria on Thursday.
The airport has been hit several times in the past by forces from the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), led by renegade General Khalifa Haftar who is fighting to overthrow the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and supports a rival administration in the east of the country.
Mitiga airport authorities said late Wednesday they were suspending air traffic “until further notice” after Haftar’s spokesman threatened to attack planes flying over the city, Arab News reported.
"Any military or civilian aircraft, regardless of its affiliation, flying over the capital will be destroyed,” warned Haftar’s spokesman Ahmad Al Mesmari, adding that such flights would be considered a violation of a cease-fire in place since January 12.
According to Mesmari the GNA, led by Fayez Sarraj, is using the airport for military purposes, specifically for the deployment of Turkish troops following Ankara’s recent authorisation of this deployment in support of the GNA.
While Turkey supports the GNA, the LNA and Haftar are supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.
Last Wednesday Mitiga was targeted by six Grad rockets only nine days after it had reopened following a truce.
These developments come as diplomats from Germany, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger and Mali meet in Algeria's capital Algiers in yet another attempt to find a political resolution to the conflict.
African News Agency (ANA)