Warplanes from Libya’s internationally recognized government attacked the last functioning airport in Tripoli, the capital controlled by a rival administration, on Monday, officials said.
Extending a series of tit-for-tat strikes, the attack coincided with the swearing-in of Khalifa Haftar, one of the most divisive figures in post-revolutionary Libya, as army commander for the recognized government.
Rival governments and parliaments are battling for control of the large North African country and its oil resources four years after rebels ousted veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and the elected parliament have been confined to a rump state in the east since an armed faction seized Tripoli in the west over the summer, reinstating the previous assembly and setting up a rival administration.
“Warplanes conducted airstrikes this morning on Mitiga airport but there was no damage,” airport spokesman Abdulsalam Buamoud said. “Flights were suspended for only an hour … but now the airport is working normally.”
Mohamed al-Hejazi, spokesman for forces loyal to Thinni, said they had attacked the airport “because it’s outside state legitimacy … Weapons and foreign fighters bound for western Libya pass through the airport”.
Both sides are allied to rival factions which have been fighting over territory and oil facilities.
To add firepower to small army forces loyal to Thinni, the eastern government and parliament have formed an alliance with Haftar, who began a self-declared war against militants in Benghazi, Libya’s second biggest city, last year.