Airstrike on Libya's Tripoli Mitiga airport halts flights

Airstrike on Libya's Tripoli Mitiga airport halts flights
Air traffic was halted at the Libyan capital’s only functioning airport on Wednesday after it was hit with an airstrike, authorities said.
3 min read
04 July, 2019
All air traffic was halted after the airstrike in the capital [Getty]
The Libyan capital's only functioning airport suspended flights on Wednesday after an air raid claimed by strongman Khalifa Haftar's forces, airport authorities said in a statement.

The attack did not cause casualties or damage, a security source at Mitiga airport said, but Ahmad al-Mesmari, a spokesman for Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army, said that a "command centre for drones at Mitiga" was destroyed in the raid. 

Haftar launched an offensive in early April to take the capital Tripoli, seat of the rival Government of National Accord.

The GNA is recognised by the international community.

Over the past three months his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has repeatedly targeted Mitiga airport.

It says it is targeting "Turkish drones" which it claims take off from Mitiga to carry out strikes on LNA forces south of Tripoli.

On Sunday the LNA said it had destroyed a Turkish drone in a strike on Mitiga, which prompted aviation authorities to temporarily suspend flights there.

Haftar's forces, which hold much of eastern and southern Libya, last month lost a key town to forces loyal to the unity government in an operation the strongman has accused Ankara of backing.

Afterwards Haftar ordered his forces to target Turkish companies, ban flights and arrest Turkish nationals in Libya, his spokesman said Friday.

Wednesday’s raid on the capital’s airport came after more than 40 migrants were killed in a late night airstrike on a detention centre in a Tripoli suburb.

The raid, blamed on Haftar, triggered international outcry.

The strike "clearly could constitute a war crime", the UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame said.

"It killed, by surprise, innocent people whose dire conditions forced them to be in that shelter", he added in a statement.

Bodies were strewn on the floor of the hangar, mixed with the belongings and blood-soaked clothes of migrants, an AFP photographer said. 

Tuesday night's strike left a hole some three meters in diameter at the centre of the hangar, surrounded by debris ripped from the metal structure by the force of the blast.

More than 130 people were also wounded in the raid on Tajoura, the UN statement added.

Tensions have soared in Libya since forces loyal to rogue commander Khalifa Haftar, who holds sway in the east of the country, launched an offensive in April to seize Tripoli, held by a UN-recognized government and various militias.

World powers have been divided on how to respond to Haftar's military campaign, with the United States and Russia refusing to back UN calls for a ceasefire. 

The Tripoli government has blamed Haftar for the attack on the detention centre. 

UN envoy Ghassan Salame has called for an independent investigation and warned that the attack may constitute a war crime.

Amnesty International said on Wednesday that the attack on the centre "must be investigated as a war crime."

Magdalena Mughrabi, the group's deputy Middle East and North Africa director, says the deaths are the "consequences of Libya and Europe's callous migration policies."

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