New raid hits Libya capital’s only working airport
Libyans gather next to a house damaged during an airstrike by forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognized government at the area around Tripoli's Mitiga airport. AFP/MAHMOUD TURKIA
AFP

TRIPOLI: A new airstrike hit the Libyan capital’s sole operational airport Tuesday, a day after a raid claimed by forces loyal to a prominent anti-Islamist general, witnesses said.

Mitiga air base, in an eastern suburb of Tripoli, has been the city’s only working airfield since damage from heavy fighting forced the closure of its civilian airport in July.

“We heard the roar of a plane then several explosions around the airport perimeter,” a witness told AFP.

He had no word on any casualties or damage.

On Monday, a low-flying fighter jet fired two missiles at the air base, which, like the rest of the capital, is controlled by Islamist-backed militia opposed to the internationally recognized government.

A security source said the strike caused no damage to the terminal or runway, although flights were temporarily diverted to Misrata airport, 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of Tripoli.

Forces loyal to retired general Khalifa Haftar, who has been leading a separate government-backed offensive against Islamist militia in Libya’s second city Benghazi, said they carried out the Monday airstrike.

“It was our air forces which carried out the air raid on Mitiga base,” held by “terrorist groups,” General Saqr al-Jarrushi, a spokesman for Haftar, told AFP.

More than three years after dictator Muammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed revolt, Libya is awash with weapons and powerful militias, and run by rival governments and parliaments.

The internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani has been based in the remote east of the country since the militia takeover of the capital in August.

All three main cities — Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata — are largely controlled by militias opposed to Thani’s government.

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