The only functioning airport of Libya’s capital suspended all flight operation on late Tuesday night after several rockets landed inside its parameters.
Sources from Tripoli's Mitiga airport said that all commercial aircraft have been evacuated and that scheduled flights were diverted to the airport of Misrata (200 km east of Tripoli). Mitiga had just resumed flights last Saturday after a similar outbreak of militia violence forced it to shut down on 31 August.
A fragile ceasefire brokered by the UN last week collapsed on late Tuesday night after eyewitnesses reported the resumption of random artillery shelling in different areas of the city. It was understood that fierce fighting has resumed in the Airport Road area between Misrata’s Sumoud Brigade and Aghnaiwah Kikly’s militia. While Grad missiles were said to have landed inside and near Mitiga, the main seaport, and on civilian houses in Abu Salim and Ain Zarah.
A group calling themselves “The Movement of Tripoli Youth” released a video (below) on late Tuesday night purporting to show members of the group firing Grad missiles at Mitiga. A post on the group’s Facebook page has threatened to bombard the airport with artillery “until it suspends its operations and is handed over to state authorities”.
Today’s shelling is said to have damaged the electricity network plunging many parts of the city into darkness. At least 78 people were killed and 156 others wounded in the first round of violence which broke out on 27 August.
Reasons behind violence
Today’s clashes are continuation of the operation launched on Monday, 27 August by Tarhouna’s tribal militias (also known as the Seventh Brigade) aimed at expanding the tribe’s territory to include Tripoli’s southern districts of Qasr bin Ghashir, Salah-Eddin, Abu Saleem and al-Hadhbah which Tarhouna considers to be an extension of its historic heartland, and whose inhabitants hail mostly from Tarhouna tribe.
By securing a foothold inside Tripoli, the tribe aims to increase its political clout and enable its militias to act as security providers to receive generous payments from the GNA equal to those given to the Tripoli-based militias. Another key objective is controlling access to Tripoli’s International Airport which is currently being rebuilt after it had been destroyed by the civil war of 2014.
Jihadi armed groups aligned with what was known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) who are now fighting alongside the Seventh Brigade, have another objective. They want to capture Mitiga airport to free fellow jihadis detained there by the Special Deterrence Force. Many of those prisoners are members of the Islamic State’s terror group.