Travelers wait as fighting shuts runways in Libya

Migrants from Mali wait at Misrata airport before their return to their countries, in Misrata, Libya September 20, 2018. Picture taken September 20, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Travelers wait as fighting shuts runways in Libya

  • Misrata airport on Libya’s northwestern Mediterranean coast processed three to four flights a day last month
  • Armed groups fighting for territory and influence 200 km further west fired rockets toward Tripoli’s main remaining air hub

MISRATA, Libya: The queue snakes out of the departures hall and deep into the carpark at Libya’s small Misrata airport — the main remaining gateway in and out of the country since fighting shut down the last runways in the capital Tripoli.
The people lined up with their luggage are the lucky ones. Others wait for their chance to queue — sitting on the pavement, one man camped out on a stalled baggage conveyor belt, trying to get some sleep with his head resting on his suitcase.
Misrata airport on Libya’s northwestern Mediterranean coast processed three to four flights a day last month.
Then armed groups fighting for territory and influence 200 km (125 miles) further west fired rockets toward Tripoli’s main remaining air hub — the latest in a long line of clashes since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi.
Flights were rerouted to Misrata. Ever since, its warehouse-sized terminal has been packed with up to 6,000 passengers pouring on and off dozens of flights every day, say officials.
“Misrata airport is not capable of handling these numbers,” said Soliman Al-Jahimy, the airport’s spokesman.
In another part of the building, scores of migrants from other parts of Africa — who were stopped in Libya as they tried to get on to Europe — wait for UN flights to take them back home.
Elsewhere businessmen wait next to stranded families and elderly relatives in wheelchairs — hotels rooms are scarce in the city and flights are repeatedly delayed or canceled. Many wait for seven hours or more.
Beyond Misrata, the other options are a tiny airport in the western town of Zuwara, next to the Tunisian border, sometimes used by diplomats — and less busy airports in eastern Libya, a territory run by a rival administration, opposed to the UN-backed administration in the west.
All are clustered on the coast, far from the country’s southern desert hinterlands which are beset by their own chaos and fighting between tribes and other armed groups that shut the airport in that region’s main city Sebha in January 2014.
“Getting here was a disaster,” says Basheer Hassan, exhausted after his long trek to Misrata.
“There were no flights operating in the south to Tripoli or to Misrata, so we had to drive here and I suffered all the way.”


US to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East

Updated 48 min 8 sec ago
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US to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were “defensive purposes,” citing concerns about a threat from Iran.
“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said in a statement.
Reuters first reported plans to send US additional troops to the Middle East earlier on Monday.
Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked, more than a year after President Donald Trump announced Washington was withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal, which a White House National Security Council spokesman said amounted to “nuclear blackmail.”