TRIPOLI: An airport near the Libyan capital was hit by a new round of rocket fire and airstrikes, the Tripoli-based government said on Saturday, two weeks after it was closed due to repeated attacks.
Separately, two commanders of the Libya National Army (LNA) were killed in a drone strike while trying to capture the capital Tripoli.
The drone strike took place in the town of Tarhouna, southeast of Tripoli. The town has been the main base of the LNA since it lost Gharyan town south of Tripoli.
The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders — Mohsen Al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab Al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade — died in the strike. A brother of Kani was also killed.
Both armed groups had teamed up with the LNA whose forces control the east with the help of a parallel government and were key to the Tripoli campaign, analysts said.
The Government of National Accord (GNA) accused forces loyal to eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar of being behind Saturday’s attacks on Mitiga airport, but did not report any casualties.
A drone airstrike hit the airport early on Saturday morning, followed by “Grad rockets launched by (pro-Haftar) militia,” the GNA said on Facebook.
The former military air base had been Tripoli’s sole functioning airport until a rocket attack on Sept. 1 wounded four civilians including three pilgrims returning from Makkah in Saudi Arabia, the latest in a string of similar incidents.
Authorities responded by diverting flights to Misrata, 200 km to the east, until further notice.
The LNA has been battling since early April to seize the capital from pro-GNA forces.
The two sides have since become embroiled in a stalemate in the capital’s southern outskirts.
Haftar’s forces, which accuse the GNA of using Mitiga for military purposes, say they are targeting “Turkish drones” being launched from the airport to attack their troops in southern Tripoli.
The GNA’s Interior Ministry has identified at least 11 attacks on Mitiga since June 21, not including Saturday’s incident.
The Tripoli-based GNA called Saturday’s attack a “desperate attempt” at revenge for losses sustained the previous day.
Since April, the fighting around Tripoli has killed at least 1,093 people and wounded 5,752, while some 120,000 others have been displaced, according to the World Health Organization.