CAIRO (AP) – Fighting between forces loyal to rival governments in the Libyan capital intensified on Saturday, with heavy artillery bombardments hitting the only functioning airport in Tripoli, setting fire to fuel tanks and damaging passenger planes, officials said. in western Libya and at the UN.
The Tripoli-based Transport Ministry said one of the damaged aircraft was scheduled to leave Tripoli to bring back Libyans trapped in Spain for blocking the coronavirus. He blamed eastern forces struggling to take the capital for more than a year for the attack.
Libya has been in crisis since 2011, when a civil war brought down longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi, who was later killed. Since then, the country has been divided between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by armed groups and foreign countries.
Brega Petroleum Marketing Company said the bombing at Mitiga airport set fire to its jet fuel tanks. The company, which is part of Libya's National Oil Corporation, shared images of apparently damaged tanks, while firefighters try to distinguish the fire.
Authorities suspended civilian flights to Mitiga, which is part of a military base in the capital, in March, even before announcing the suspension of air travel as part of their measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year, eastern forces under military command Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive in Tripoli, colliding with a series of militias loosely allied to the weak but UN-backed government in the capital. The Tripoli authorities are supported by Turkey and Qatar, while forces in eastern Libya are supported by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
The UN support mission in Libya blamed Hifter's forces for Mitiga's attack.
"Today's heavy bombing is one of a series of indiscriminate attacks … killing more than 15 and injuring 50 civilians since May 1," he said. The mission said that most of these attacks were attributed to Libya's self-styled Arab Armed Forces.
There were no immediate comments from LAAF, which repeatedly claimed that Turkey used the airport to launch drone attacks against its forces. Tripoli authorities denied the charges.
The struggle for Tripoli threatened to lead Libya to a major conflagration on the scale of the 2011 uprising that overthrew and then killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.