Benghazi, 29 April:
Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib was prevented by thuwar (revolutionaries) from flying out of Benghazi’s Benina airport on Saturday. Heavily . . .[restrict]armed gunmen from the city’s “Qatar” battalion, which is supposed to have been incorporated into the national army, took over the airport in the evening and blocked the runway with vehicles.
Al-Kib and other government ministers were in Benghazi to inaugurate the new government headquarters in the city.
According to interior ministry official Wanis Shareef, the brigadesmen wanted payment of salaries.
Al-Kib offered to meet with representatives of the protestors in one of the airport halls so they could present their complaints. However, this did not mollify them, some of whom reportedly demanded he sign cheques there and then, and they continued with their protest for several hours, bringing the airport to a complete standstill.
A Libyan Airlines flight to Amman carrying a number of patients, including an elderly sick woman was held up for hours, a flight from Tripoli had to turn back shortly after takeoff, and a Tunisair flight from Tunis, also said to be carrying a number of Libyan patients, was prevented from landing. It had to return, landing at Djerba en route to refuel, and its passengers forced to spend the night at Tunis airport.
The prime minister flew back to Tripoli from Abraq airport.
On Sunday, the airport was back to normal. However, it is reported that security is to be stepped up and placed in the hands of the Rafallah battalion, acting under the direct authority of the Interior Ministry’s Supreme Security Committee.
With input from Maha Ellawati