March 9, 2019 / 6:08 PM / 12 days ago

Libya's Tripoli airport closed due to unidentified drone

FILE PHOTO: The interior of Mitiga airport is seen empty following clashes, in Tripoli, Libya, September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Hani Amara/File Photo

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The airport in the Libyan capital Tripoli was closed on Saturday due to an unidentified drone flying in the area, the airport’s director said.

Residents have repeatedly spotted drones flying over Tripoli in the past few days but the reason is not clear.

Flights from Tripoli’s Matiga airport have been halted until further notice, said its director Lutfi al-Tayeb.

People in the capital have been on edge due to rumours that the eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA) loyal to Khalifa Haftar might seek to take it after gaining control of much of the south.

Haftar has not said he wants to march on Tripoli but a LNA website carried an unsourced report this week saying it could happen, adding that the LNA was working with people inside the city.

The United Nations, alarmed about the possibility of a military escalation, is mediating between Haftar, who is allied to a parallel government in the east, and Tripoli premier Fayez al-Serraj who heads the U.N.-backed administration.

The U.N. has been trying for years to pull the oil producer out of conflict but made little progress.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Hesham Hajali; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Kirsten Donovan

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