Libya airport re-opens despite Haftar’s forces threat to shoot down planes

Airplanes in the tarmac of the international airport in Tripoli, Libya. (AP pic)

TRIPOLI: Libya’s unity government said Thursday it had re-opened Tripoli’s sole functioning airport, a day after eastern forces threatened to shoot down planes over the capital.

Mitiga airport has been hit by rocket fire multiple times since the start of a months-long offensive by forces of eastern commander Khalifa Haftar to seize Tripoli from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

Airport authorities said late Wednesday they were again suspending air traffic “until further notice”.

It came after Haftar’s spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari warned that “any military or civilian aircraft, regardless of its affiliation, flying over the capital will be destroyed”.

The airport had already halted flights for several hours earlier Wednesday after it was targeted by six Grad rockets blamed by the GNA on Haftar’s forces.

On Thursday, the GNA “decided to restore air traffic at Mitiga Airport”, it said in a statement published on Facebook.

The GNA said it would raise the issue of Haftar’s threats at the UN Security Council.

Haftar’s forces, who back a rival administration in Libya’s east, have been battling since April to seize Tripoli from GNA.

They accuse the GNA of using Mitiga airport to launch drones targeting their troops, stalled on the edges of the capital — a charge the GNA denies.

World powers have stepped up efforts in recent weeks to find a political solution to the grinding conflict, after years of chaos in the North African country following the death of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.