Rocket attack on Libya airport


Rockets hit Libya’s main airport and damaged a plane as it was waiting to take off, a security force said, underscoring fragile security.

One rocket hit an Airbus 320 of state-run Libyan Airlines and others struck the arrivals hall at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport. No one was injured, a spokesman for the Special Deterrence Force (Rada) said.

Photos circulating on social media showed a tear in the tarmac and holes in the wing and body of the plane.

Tripoli has been controlled by a patchwork of armed groups since a 2011 uprising that toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi and splintered the country.

Armed groups fighting for territory and power regularly attack the city’s transport hubs – undermining government efforts to persuade diplomatic missions to return to the capital.

There have been rival governments in Tripoli and the east since 2014, when most diplomatic missions evacuated to Tunisia.

Airlines struggled to maintain services and keep the oil-producing country connected to the outside world as attacks damage aircraft.

Mitiga is the only operating airport in Tripoli. Fighting in 2014 put the main international airport out of service.

Rada, a security group aligned to Libya’s internationally recognised government that controls the airport, said the rockets were fired by men loyal to a militia leader known as Bashir “the Cow” Khalfalla, a group it clashed with before and which it blames for regular night-time shelling of Mitiga.

Italy and Turkey reopened their embassies in Tripoli last year. UN envoy Ghassan Salame is now based in the city, where he meetings on Thursday and attended an art exhibition with Prime Minister Fayez Seraj in the evening. French Ambassador Brigitte Curmi was also in the capital, holding talks with Libyan officials.

Asked whether elections would be held this year, Salame said after meeting Foreign Minister Mohamed Taher Siyala: “Sure. We promised this to the UN Security Council.” He did not elaborate.

The United Nations launched a new round of talks in September in Tunis between rival factions to prepare for elections in 2018, but divisions have so far prevented any accord.