March 19, 2015 / 6:17 PM / 5 years ago

Libyan official government forces bomb Tripoli airport

TRIPOLI/RABAT (Reuters) - Warplanes from Libya’s internationally recognized government on Thursday bombed the only functioning commercial airport in Tripoli on Thursday, delaying the arrival of a delegation from a rival parliament for U.N. peace talks, officials said.

The attack on Matiga airport, a military base used for commercial flights after the main airport closed following heavy fighting there last summer, damaged the runway but repairs should be finished later on Thursday, an airport spokesman said.

No casualties were reported.

But the bombing delayed the departure of a delegation from Tripoli for Morocco for talks hosted by the United Nations to persuade the country’s warring parties to form a national government.

Libya is locked in a power struggle between two governments and parliaments battling for control of the large North African country and its oil resources four years after rebels ousted veteran autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.

Internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and the elected parliament have been confined to eastern Libya since an armed faction seized Tripoli last summer, reinstating the previous assembly and setting up a rival administration.

“Fighting jets conducted air strikes on Matiga airport early today which damaged the runway,” said airport spokesman Abdulsalam Buamoud.

Mohamed El Hejazi, a spokesman for forces allied to Thinni, said the attack was carried out as “part of a war against terrorism that will continue until Libya has been freed of terrorism”.

The attack came days after officials in Zintan, a western region allied to Thinni, accused the Tripoli-based government of launching air strikes against its local airport.

Both sides are aligned with rival armed factions that have been fighting over territory and oil facilities while Islamist militants have exploited the chaos to carve out fiefdoms.

The United Nations condemned the attacks on Tripoli and Zintan airports. U.N. spokesman Samir Ghattas said the Morocco talks, originally expected for Thursday, would probably now start on Friday. The talks have been going on since September.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami, Aziz El Yaakoubi, Ayman al-Warfalli and Ulf Laessing; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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