New raid hits Libyan capital's only functioning airport

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Smoke billows on November 25, 2014 from the Mitiga airport in an eastern suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli held by anti-government militias, after an airstrike by forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognized government. AFP / Mahmoud Turkia

Published Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A new airstrike hit the Libyan capital's sole operational airport on Tuesday, a day after a raid claimed by pro-government forces, witnesses said.

Mitiga air base, in an eastern suburb of Tripoli, has been the city's only working airfield since damage from heavy fighting forced the closure of its civilian airport in July.

"We heard the roar of a plane then several explosions around the airport perimeter," a witness told AFP.

He had no word on any casualties or damage.

On Monday, a low-flying fighter jet fired two missiles at the air base, which, like the rest of the capital, is controlled by Islamist-backed militia opposed to the internationally recognized government headed by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani.

A security source said the strike caused no damage to the terminal or runway, although flights were temporarily diverted to Misrata airport, 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of Tripoli.

Forces loyal to retired general Khalifa Haftar, who has been leading a separate government-backed offensive against Islamist militia in Libya's second city Benghazi, said they carried out the Monday airstrike.

"It was our air forces which carried out the air raid on Mitiga base," held by "terrorist groups," General Saqr al-Jarrushi, a spokesman for Haftar, told AFP.

On Sunday, fighters loyal to Thani government seized the western town of Kekla after more than 40 days of clashes with Islamists, both sides said.

Pro-government fighters from the western town of Zintan, backed by parts of the army and air force loyal to Thani, launched a counter-offensive in October to wrest back control of the strategic outpost of Kekla.

Libya has been grappling with a sharply deteriorating security since a NATO-backed uprising toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In the three years since, rival militias have clashed in Libya's main cities, including capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.

The political divisions have yielded two rival seats of government in the country, each of which has its own institutions.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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