BENGHAZI Libya (Reuters) - About 600 Egyptians have been refused entry to Libya on arrival at Tripoli’s Matiga airport due to invalid visas, an airport official said on Saturday.
The airport, like the rest of the Libyan capital, is under the control of an armed group with Islamist links which seized Tripoli in August. The new rulers have set up their own government and parliament, forcing the internationally recognized Prime Minster Abdullah al-Thinni to move to the east.
Libya has refused entry to Egyptian workers before, due to forged or expired visas, but some Libyan social media websites linked the decision to Egypt’s support for Thinni’s government.
Operation Dawn, the armed group controlling Tripoli, has accused Egypt of having flown repeated air strikes on targets in Tripoli and Benghazi, the main eastern city.
Egypt denies this but Egyptian officials have said Cairo is supporting Libya’s nascent army to fight Islamist militants.
Egypt has also tightened visa rules for Libyan men and banned Libyan carriers from using Cairo airport for security reasons, forcing them to fly from the smaller Alexandria airport. State-run Egypt Air has stopped flying to Libya.
Egypt is worried about the spread of Islamist militants in Libya which is gripped by lawlessness three years after the ousting of strongman Muammar Gaddafi. Like other countries, Cairo has not recognized the Tripoli-based parallel government.
In eastern Libya, authorities reopened Labraq airport which had been closed for two days due to security reasons, the airport director said.
Gunmen have repeatedly fired Grad rockets into Labraq airport, east of Benghazi. Benghazi’s airport has been shut since May when a former general declared war on Islamists.
Reporting by Feras Bosalum, Ayman al-Warfalli, Ahmed Elumami and Ulf Laessing; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Stephen Powell