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'Emirati drones' launched by Haftar forces strike Libya airport: unity govt

The former military airbase had been Tripoli's sole functioning airport [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 September, 2019

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Rocket fire and airstrikes struck an airport near the Libyan capital on Saturday, just two weeks after similar attacks.
An airport near the Libyan capital was hit by a new round of rocket fire and airstrikes, the UN-recognised government said Saturday, two weeks after it was closed due to repeated attacks. 

The Government of National Accord accused forces loyal to eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar of being behind Saturday's attacks on Mitiga airport, but did not report any casualties.

An airstrike by "Emirati drones" hit the airport early Saturday morning, followed by "Grad rockets launched by (pro-Haftar) militia", the GNA said on Facebook. 

The former military airbase had been Tripoli's sole functioning airport until a rocket attack on September 1 wounded four civilians including three pilgrims returning from Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the latest in a string of similar incidents.

Authorities responded by diverting flights to Misrata, 200 kilometres (120 miles) to the east, until further notice.

Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army has been battling since early April to seize the capital from pro-GNA forces.

The two sides have since become embroiled in a stalemate in the capital's southern outskirts. 

Haftar's forces, which accuse the GNA of using Mitiga for military purposes, say they are targeting "Turkish drones" being launched from the airport to attack their troops in southern Tripoli. 

The GNA's interior ministry has identified at least 11 attacks on Mitiga since June 21, not including Saturday's incident.

The Tripoli-based GNA called Saturday's attack a "desperate attempt" at revenge for losses sustained the previous day. 

Haftar's forces announced overnight that two senior commanders of a pro-LNA armed group from the town of Tarhuna, southeast of Tripoli, had been killed in an airstrike south of the capital.

Libya has been unstable since a 2011 uprising which overthrew longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi. In 2014, a civil war broke out after Haftar's LNA launched an operation against rival militias in Benghazi.

In April this year, the LNA launched an offensive to conquer Tripoli, but five months on, his forces remain locked in a stalemate on the capital's outskirts.

The fighting has killed at least 1,093 people and wounded 5,752, while some 120,000 others have been displaced, according to the World Health Organisation.

Haftar's forces are fighting militias backing the GNA, which is led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj.

The Tripoli government is backed by Turkey and Qatar, while Haftar enjoys support from Egypt, the UAE, and RussiaFrance has also reportedly aided Haftar’s forces.

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