December 28, 2014 / 11:46 AM / 4 years ago

Libya's official government conducts air strikes on Misrata

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Forces loyal to Libya’s recognized government staged air strikes on targets in Misrata on Sunday in the first such attacks on the city allied to an armed group that seized the capital in the summer, officials and residents said.

The North African country, a major oil producer, has been engulfed in fighting between the two sides, each with its own government and parliament.

The internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has been forced to run a rump state in the east since a group known as Libya Dawn took control of Tripoli in August, setting up a rival government and parliament.

Mohamed El Hejazi, spokesman for armed forces loyal to Thinni, said his air force had attacked Misrata’s port, an air force academy near the airport and Libya’s biggest steel plant, which is located in the western city.

Ismail Shukri, spokesman for forces allied to Libya Dawn, confirmed that air strikes had taken place but said they caused no damage.

“The airport at Misrata is still working normally. A flight has just taken off,” he said.

Misrata, 200 km (125 miles) east of Tripoli, is linked to Libya Dawn and home to a major sea port and free trade zone. The city had so far escaped the fighting that has threatened to break up Libya.

The air strikes came two weeks after a force allied to Libya Dawn moved east to try seize the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf oil ports.

Since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011, Libya has failed to attain stability. Former rebel brigades which once fought side by side have now turned on each other, aligning themselves with rival political factions in a scramble for control.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Ahmed Elumami writing by Ulf Laessing; editing by Giles Elgood

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