By Sami Zaptia.
London, 28 March 2016:
Tripoli’s Mitiga airport was closed ‘’indefinitely’’ at dawn this Monday morning due to heavy gunfire, including . . .[restrict]anti antiaircraft guns around the airport – only to be reopened again at around 10 am Libya time.
It will be recalled that Tripoli and Misrata airspace had been closed for six hours, from 8 am to 2 pm, yesterday by the de facto Tripoli authorities due to alleged ‘’technical’’ reasons. The real reason was thought to be the imminent arrival of Faiez Serraj and his Government of National Accord (GNA).
This morning, flights that were already in the air had to be redirected. Libyan Airlines flights from Istanbul and Jeddah as well as Libya Wings flight from Istanbul were rerouted to Misrata airport.
A Libyan Airlines source confirmed that the closure this morning was purely for safety reasons due to the heavy gunfire near Mitiga airport.
Meanwhile, as the rumour mill continued overnight about the arrival or non-arrival of Faiez Serraj and his GNA, the opposing militias within Tripoli took to the air with heavy gunfire.
To add to the tension of the Tripoli-based militias, in Misrata, meanwhile, a number of militias made a televised statement saying that they recognized the GNA as the sole representatives of the Libyan state. They further announced that they had formed a Temporary Crises Room to enable the GNA to enter Tripoli.
The heavy gunfire, including anti-aircraft guns, has continued into this morning, but one former Misratan militia member told Libya Herald that so far, it is no more than ‘’muscle flexing as each militia marks its territory and sends out loud signals to opposing militias, warning them off and saying we are still here’’. At the time of writing no militia injuries or deaths had been reported as a result of the heavy gunfire.
The existing militias in Tripoli are fearful that at best they will be out of power under the GNA or at worse that they might be persecuted. Those who are enjoying power don’t want to give it up, the former militiaman explained.
Meanwhile, despite all the shouting via guns, Serraj’s media advisor Fathi Ben Essa and a Serraj relative have confirmed that Serraj is still in Tunisia. [/restrict]