Libya Islamists claim capture of Tripoli Airport

Updated 24 August 2014

Libya Islamists claim capture of Tripoli Airport

TRIPOLI, Libya: Libyan Islamists, who say they have seized Tripoli airport, accused the United Arab Emirates and Egypt on Saturday of involvement in two air raids against their forces in the past week.
“The Emirates and Egypt are involved in this cowardly aggression,” a spokesman for the Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) operation said, reading out a statement to Libyan journalists in Tripoli.
He said the provisional Libyan government and the country’s new parliament were accomplices to the raids.
Fajr Libya's claim of capturing Tripoli’s battered international airport followed a setback the previous night when a mystery warplane raided Islamist positions, killing at least 10 fighters, a Fajr Libya spokesman said.
If independent sources confirm the airport has changed hands, it would be a major defeat for the nationalist fighters from Zintan west of Tripoli who have held the airport since the fall of long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
A statement shown on screen on An-Nabaa television, regarded as close to the Islamists, said: “Fajr Libya announces that it totally controls Tripoli international airport.”
Earlier on Saturday, leaders of the Islamist coalition, partly comprising men from Misrata, east of Tripoli, said their forces were advancing on the airport, having taken a bridge and a military base.
The strategic site 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of the Libyan capital, has been shut since July 13 amid skirmishes between the Islamists and the Zintan force, allies of rogue general Khalifa Haftar, based at Benghazi in eastern Libya and hostile to the Islamists.
The Islamist coalition, which repeatedly claims successes against the nationalists, on Thursday organized a visit by Libyan journalists to an army base on the way to the airport, to prove they had taken it.

Deadly airstrike
Fajr Libya spokesman Mohamed Al-Ghariani said on Saturday that an overnight air raid near the wreckage-strewn airport that killed at least 10 Islamists and wounded 20 was aimed at easing the pressure on the Zintan militia defending the hub.
However, Ghariani said he could not identify the warplane that carried out the raid, just as two aircraft which bombarded Islamist positions on Monday night remain unidentified.
Neither the targeted militants nor the Libyan government, lacking real power and holed up in Tobruk 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) east of Tripoli, have been able to shed light on the provenance of the two planes in Monday’s raid.
The latest deadly strike targeted an army base to the south of Tripoli and a nearby warehouse, Ghariani said on An-Nabaa television.
Haftar claimed to be behind Monday’s raid, but specialists doubted his ability to carry out such at attack.
An air force unit which has refused to join an offensive launched by Haftar in Benghazi said the aircraft were “foreign, not Libyan.”
It said Libyan aircraft are not equipped to make night flights and cannot be refueled in flight, particularly if they take off from remote air bases controlled by Haftar’s forces.
Ghariani said the raids were undoubtedly aimed at relieving pressure on the Zintan militia.
The drawn-out battle for the airport has sparked the worst violence in the Libyan capital since the uprising.
Wild theories about the mystery aircraft abound in media and political circles. Some speculate about Western intervention, but France, Italy and the United States have all denied involvement.
The Islamists do not rule out foreign aircraft acting at the behest of the Libyan government, after the new parliament elected on June 25 called for foreign intervention to protect civilians.
Others suggest the trail leads toward neighboring countries, in particular Egypt, where new President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi is hostile toward Islamists. Authorities in Cairo have refused to comment.
Algeria to the immediate west has repeatedly said it will not get involved in Libya.
Meanwhile, some sources in Libya say Haftar has acquired Sukhoi jets from Russia capable of carrying out such raids.
Another theory is that the embattled Zintan fighters hired mercenaries and aircraft from an unknown army to launch the raids.


Iran breaks its record for most new coronavirus cases in one day

Updated 26 min 46 sec ago

Iran breaks its record for most new coronavirus cases in one day

  • Iran, which emerged early on as an epicenter of the virus, has seen its worst wave of deaths from the illness in recent weeks
TEHRAN: Iran on Tuesday reported its highest single-day toll of new coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic with more than 5,000 new infections, as the country struggles to cope with a surge in transmission.
Iran’s health ministry also reported that 322 people had died from the virus, pushing the death toll over 31,000. The new infection count on Tuesday eclipsed the previous high of 4,830 last week, shining a light on the nation’s floundering efforts to combat the virus.
Iran, which emerged early on as an epicenter of the virus, has seen its worst wave of deaths from the illness in recent weeks. Monday’s death toll shattered its previous single-day record, prompting state news outlets to declare it a “black day.”
Hospitals in the hard-hit capital of Tehran are overflowing. Last week, health officials announced that the city had run out of intensive care beds for virus patients.
The increase comes after Iranians packed cafes and restaurants at vacation spots during recent national holidays, and after schools reopened for in-person instruction last month.
The government has resisted a total lockdown because it does not want to further weaken an economy already devastated by unprecedented US sanctions. The Trump administration re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran after withdrawing in 2018 from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers.
With the death toll skyrocketing, authorities are now starting to impose more restrictions. The government closed museums, libraries, beauty salons, schools and universities in Tehran earlier this month, and imposed a mask mandate outdoors.