Maitiqa, Tripoli’s only functioning airport, was temporarily closed earlier this evening after a plane owned by Libyan Wings, a private aviation company, came under fire during take-off, according to a local security official.
The attack was blamed on militias from Tripoli’s eastern suburb of Tajoura led by Bashir al-Bograh, according to the same source who spoke to our website on condition of anonymity. If confirmed, this would be Bograh’s second attack against the airport in less than 30 days. Others pointed finger at pro-Bograh militias based in al-Ghararat, a residential area adjacent to the airport.
An announcement posted this evening on the airport’s official Facebook page said it was closed “until further notice”, and that three incoming flights from Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia have been diverted to the airport of Misrata. Two other incoming flights from Turkey and Tunisia operated by Buraq Air and Afriqiyah Airways have been rescheduled for tomorrow. The announcement gave no reason for the closure, which some have interpreted as an attempt to avoid possible measures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The previous closure lasted for 6 days due to fierce fighting which claimed the lives of 20 people and damaged several commercial aircraft.
Tajoura militias are said to be aligned with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which demands the release of Islamist inmates – including Jihadis from Benghazi and Darnah- from a prison located inside the airport’s parameters. Security experts say the underlying reason for the violence is a turf war between the LIFG, an al-Qaeda linked proscribed group, and the so-called Special Deterrence Force, the Salafist militia in control of Maitiqa.
On 22 January, we warned that LIFG figures, including Tarek Darman, were planning for a second round of violence in Maitiqa.