January 20, 2018 / 1:49 PM / 4 months ago

Airport in Libya's capital reopens after closure due to clashes

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The only functioning airport in the Libyan capital reopened on Saturday after a five-day closure caused by deadly clashes that left passenger jets damaged.

FILE PHOTO - A plane flies over Mitiga airport following clashes, in Tripoli, Libya, January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

Mitiga airport, located just east of Tripoli city center, appeared to be operating normally, with both departures and arrivals areas busy with passengers.

“All domestic and international flights have ...resumed,” said an airport official who asked not to be named for security reasons. “No technical problems have been reported and security is under control.”

Fighting on Monday pitted the Special Deterrence Force (SDF), which is aligned with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and an armed group based in the nearby Tajoura district. [nL8N1PA216]

At least 20 people were killed and 60 wounded. The four Libyan airlines operating out of Mitiga have been rushing to repair or replace aircraft that were hit by gunfire or artillery while parked there during the battle.

Flights to evacuate or repatriate foreign migrants from Tripoli, which are mainly operated by U.N. agencies, were suspended because of Mitiga’s closure.

Tripoli has frequently been shaken by clashes between armed groups since Libya slid into chaos and violence following the overthrow of Mummar Gaddafi in 2011. Under the GNA, several large groups have expanded their power and the situation remains fragile.

Tripoli’s main international airport was badly damaged by fighting in 2014 and is still out of service.

editing by John Stonestreet

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