By Libya Herald reporters.
Tripoli/Tunis, 12 February 2017:
Tripoli International Airport at Gasr Ben Gashir, destroyed in 2014 by Libya Dawn militias, is to be reopened on Friday, the sixth anniversary of the Revolution, by the man who later became Libya Dawn’s political face. He is expected to accompanied by Salah Badi, the very man who led the 2014 attack on it. He is the leader of the Samoud Front which is the backbone of the new Tripoli-based Libyan National Guard now acting as Ghwell’s army.
Last October Khalifa Ghwell resurrected his National Salvation Government when gunmen helped him seize Tripoli’s Rixos complex, declared the Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord overthrown and the NSG back in power.
Ghwell has since several times upstaged the PC, bouncing deputy chairman Ahmed Maetig at the commissioning of a new turbine at Khoms power station, holding board-style meetings with GECOL executives and temporarily occupying three government ministries.
When Ghwell announced last year that Tripoli’s international airport was being rebuilt there was widespread incredulity. A video he put out showed a single digger pecking at a tangle of reinforcing steel. The main terminal was completely destroyed in August 2014 a day after a Misratan militia commander Salah Badi took the airport from Zintani militiamen who had run it since the Revolution. During the fight at least three passenger planes were completely destroyed and most of the others damaged beyond repair. The control tower was also hit.
However, new facilities have been built, including a VIP section, and paid for by Ghwell.
The GNA had also announced rebuilding plans for what it renamed “Idris Airport” after the former king. It said last October that it was in discussions with an Italian consortium whose executives had visited the ruined site. Work was due to start this year.
The Ghwell rebuilding appears to have been mostly undertaken using local contractors with some Turkish involvement. It is not yet clear what technical work was necessary to fix the control tower. Ghwell’s highly active Foreign Media Department last week invited international media to fly in to Mitiga to cover the Tripoli International reopening ceremony.
Significantly, it told foreign journalists wanting to attend that they had to travel to Libya via Misrata.
Mitiga, the more logical point of entry, is the base for the Rada Special Deterrence Force led by Abdul Raouf Kara, a supporter of the PC and Government of National Accord.
The concern now is that when the old airport once again becomes fully operational (and, just as importantly, airlines agree to move there), Ghwell’s LNG militias will attack Mitiga in order to crush Rada and Kara. The aim would be to put it out of business and scupper the PC and its government of national accord which would then have no means of getting in and out of Tripoli.