A report that 11 planes were stolen or missing days after Libya’s Tripoli International Airport was overtaken by Islamist militias is unfounded, a State Department official told Washington lawmakers Wednesday while defending U.S. policy in the war-torn country.
“We have had the opportunity to examine that issue, and I can say categorically it is without foundation,” said Gerald Feierstein, deputy assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The report first appeared in the conservative website Washington Free Beacon, which cited an unnamed U.S. official. It alleged that intelligence agencies had warned that Islamist militias working in concert with al-Qaeda affiliates could use the airliners to launch attacks on U.S. allies in North Africa or Europe. And the attacks would be timed to the 9/11 anniversary.
Feierstein dismissed the report as untrue during the hearing on the chaos gripping Libya. He said the U.S. has a long-term strategy to implement a political resolution for the oil-rich country. Warring militias currently control Libya’s major cities, and the elected parliament has fled the capital of Tripoli and is operating out of a car ferry docked in the eastern town of Tobruk.