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Rocket fire on capital airport injures 4 in Libya

Rocket fire on airport injures 4

Passengers wait for their flights at the Mitiga International Airport in Libya's capital Tripoli on August 24, 2019, after a rocket hit the airport which suspended flights. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

Rocket fire by forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar against the Libyan capital’s sole functioning airport wounded four civilians overnight, the Government of National Accord said on Sunday. The strikes coincided with the arrival of a Libyan plane inbound from Saudi Arabia, which was carrying pilgrims on their way back from Mecca.

Three pilgrims, including a woman, were among four civilians wounded, said Wedad Abu Niran, a spokesman for the Government of National Accord’s health ministry. Airport director Lotfi al-Tabib said Mitiga’s runway was damaged and a Libyan Airlines plane was hit by shrapnel, putting it out of service. 

Flights have been suspended “until further notice”, Tabib added. The Tripoli-based GNA controls the former military airbase east of the city, which has been used by civilian traffic since Tripoli international airport suffered severe damage during fighting in 2014.

In a statement, the GNA blamed what it called a “terrorist attack” on forces of Haftar and urged the international community to assume “its responsibilities concerning the protection of civilians”.

A plume of smoke rises above buildings as fighters loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) gathers during clashes with forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, in Espiaa, about 40 kilometres south of the Libyan capital Tripoli on August 21, 2019. (Photo by Mahmud TURKIA / AFP)

Related News: Libya’s Mitiga International airport reopens after rocket fire attack

Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive on April 4 to conquer Tripoli. The two sides have since been embroiled in a stalemate on the capital’s southern outskirts and Haftar’s forces have allegedly repeatedly targeted Mitiga, accusing the GNA of using it for “military ends”.

A similar strike on Mitiga killed a guard and wounded several security agents on August 15. Last week, the airport closed temporarily due to a rocket strike that hit as two planes were arriving, though no causalities were reported. 

Haftar’s forces say they are targeting “Turkish drones” that they claim to take off from the airport to conduct strikes on their troops in the south of Tripoli. The UN mission in Libya said it is concerned by the “growing frequency” of these attacks, which have come close to hitting civilian aircraft. 

Pay Attention: Prominent dates in the two-month battle for Tripoli

Since April, fighting between GNA and Haftar forces has killed at least 1,093 people and wounded 5,752, while some 120,000 others have been displaced, according to the World Health Organization.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

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