Tunisia, Egypt halt Libya flights over security fears

August 22, 2014 - 12:00:00 am
Spent bullet shells litter the ground as a member of the Islamist-linked militia walks past following three days of battles in the area of Tripoli’s international airport yesterday.

CAIRO: Tunisia and Egypt’s Cairo airport halted most flights to and from Libya yesterday for security reasons, officials said, days after the Libyan government said unidentified war planes had attacked positions of armed groups in Tripoli.

Flights from Tunisia and Egypt to Libya had been operating on an almost daily basis until now, a vital link to the outside for Libyans and foreigners alike as fighting between rival factions in the capital escalated.

Libya has used the small Matiga airport in Tripoli for civilian traffic since the main airport was turned into a battlefield last month. The tower, runway and at least 20 aircraft have been damaged, officials have said.

When flying into Matiga, passengers can sometimes see smoke rising from battles in and around the main airport. Rebel groups who united to topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 have since turned on each other, spreading anarchy in oil-producing Libya and raising fears it may become a failed state.

In Tripoli two factions, one from the city of Zintan and the other from Misrata, have been fighting each other for control of the city for over a month.

The violence, the worst Libya has seen since the uprising against Gaddafi, prompted the United Nations and foreign embassies in Libya to evacuate their staff and citizens, and foreign airlines largely stopped flying to Libya.

However, flights from Tunis to the eastern Libyan town of Labraq, as well as from the Egyptian Mediterranean port city of Alexandria to Libya were still operating, a Libyan aviation official said. A Tunisian transport official said flights to the eastern town of Tobruk were also still running.

REUTERS

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