Turkish Airlines suspends flights to Libya, after Misrata bombed again
Turkish Airlines, the last remaining foreign carrier offering flights to Libya, said on Tuesday that it was suspending flights to the conflict-wracked country after forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar once again bombed the western city of Misrata.
“We have suspended our Misrata flights until further notice, due to operational issues,” a company spokesperson told AFP. “Turkish Airlines is not operating any scheduled flights to Libya at the moment.”
The airline had earlier suspended its flights to the capital Tripoli as well as Benghazi and the inland desert city of Sebha.
Officials in Misrata told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday of fresh air raids on the city, carried out by Haftar, a onetime Gaddafi general who was exiled but returned in 2011 to help the NATO-backed uprising that eventually ousted the former strongman. While Haftar retired after the revolution, he returned to the scene in 2014 to lead a military campaign against what he describes as “terrorists” in Libya. He was eventually re-integrated back into the regular army that is loyal to the Tobruk-based parliament late last year.
“The airstrikes – which targeted Misrata’s port, steel factory and aviation academy – have not resulted in any casualties or material damage,” Misrata City Council spokesperson Ramadan Meitik said.
“Misrata lacks any military facilities or arms depots,” he said, adding that Tuesday’s airstrikes had “targeted civilian facilities and terrorised local residents.”
It was the fourth time in recent months Misrata has been hit by bombing raids. On 28 December strikes hit the city’s airport and a steel factory – official statements said there were no casualties or material damage.
On 25 November forces allied with Haftar and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) hit Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport, which they said had been used for “terrorist purposes.”
Libya is the midst of a brutal civil war, as rival cities, tribes and militias battle it out for control of Africa’s largest oil reserves.
In the east sits the internationally recognised HoR, which moved to Tobruk after the Misratan Led Alliance of Libya Dawn seized control of the capital in August 2014. Haftar and his forces are fighting against Libya Dawn in alliance with the HoR, while in Tripoli the defunct General National Congress has reconvened appointing its own government.