Rockets hit Libya airport as UN, French officials visit to talk peace

In this file photo, the interior of Mitiga airport is seen empty following clashes that took place in Tripoli in January 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 19 April 2018

Rockets hit Libya airport as UN, French officials visit to talk peace

  • One rocket hit an Airbus 320 and others struck the arrivals hall at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport.
  • A security group that controls the airport alligned to Libya’s government said the rockets were fired by men loyal to a militia leader known as Bashir “the Cow.”

Tripoli: Rockets hit Libya’s main airport and damaged a plane as it was waiting to take off early on Thursday, a security force said, the same day as the United Nations envoy and France’s ambassador were visiting the capital to discuss a peace plan.
One rocket hit an Airbus 320 and others struck the arrivals hall at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport at around 2 a.m. (midnight GMT), but no one was injured, a spokesman for the Special Deterrence Force (Rada) said.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame and French ambassador Brigitte Curmi arrived at the same airport — the only one operating in the city. Their offices did not immediately release a statement on the attack or say when they landed.
Tripoli has been controlled by a patchwork of armed groups since a 2011 uprising that toppled long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi and splintered the country.
There have been rival governments in Tripoli and the east since 2014, when most diplomatic missions evacuated to neighboring Tunisia.
Armed groups fighting for territory and power have regularly attacked Tripoli’s transport hubs — undermining the government’s efforts to persuade diplomatic missions to return to the capital.
Airlines have also struggled to maintain services and keep the oil-producing country connected to the outside world as attacks damage their planes.
Rada, a security group that controls the airport alligned to Libya’s internationally recognized government, said the rockets were fired by men loyal to a militia leader known as Bashir “the Cow,” a group it has clashed with before.
France’s Curmi met representatives of that govenrment in Tripoli at around 9 a.m., and the UN’s Salame held his meeting in the early afternoon.
When asked whether elections would be held this year, Salame said after meeting Foreign Minister Mohamed Taher Siala: “Sure. We promised this the UN Security Council.” He did not elaborate.
The United Nations launched a new round of talks in September in Tunis between the rival factions to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 but divisions have prevented reaching an accord.
Mitiga is a military air base near the center of Tripoli that began hosting civilian flights after the international airport was put out of service in 2014.


Iranian wedding party fueled new COVID-19 surge, President Rouhani says

Updated 58 min 50 sec ago

Iranian wedding party fueled new COVID-19 surge, President Rouhani says

  • New cases dipped to 2,886 on Friday, bringing Iran’s total cases to more than 167,000, with over 8,000 deaths
  • Health officials have been warning of a second wave of the outbreak, but say a reason for the surge in new cases could be wider testing

DUBAI: A wedding party contributed to a new surge in coronavirus infections in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday but insisted the country had no option but to keep its economy open despite warnings of a second wave of the epidemic.
Iran, which has been gradually relaxing its lockdown since mid-April, has reported a sharp rise of new daily infections in recent days. Thursday’s toll of 3,574 new cases was the highest since February, when the outbreak was first reported.
“At one location, we witnessed a peak in this epidemic, the source of which was a wedding that caused problems for the people, health workers and losses to the economy and the country’s health system,” Rouhani said on state TV. He did not say when or where the wedding took place.
New cases dipped to 2,886 on Friday, bringing Iran’s total cases to more than 167,000, with over 8,000 deaths.
Health officials have been warning of a second wave of the outbreak, but say a reason for the surge in new cases could be wider testing. One official said about 70% of the new cases in Tehran were among those who had traveled outside the capital in recent days.
Iran has been struggling to curb the spread of COVID-19 but authorities are concerned that measures to limit public and economic life to contain the virus could wreck an already economy already reeling under international sanctions.
“In these circumstances, we have no other choice — that is, there is no second option,” Rouhani added. “We have to work, our factories have to be active, our shops have to be open, and there has to be movement in the country as far as it is necessary.”
Iranian universities reopened on Saturday after being closed for more than three and a half months, state media reported. Nurseries will reopen in a week’s time, when Qur'an and languages classes will also resume, Rouhani said.