Libya: Flights Resume At Tripoli Airport After Seizure

Some air traffic has resumed at Tripoli airport, a day after it was seized and shut down by a militia group, say officials.

Libyan army regains control of Tripoli airport briefly seized by militias

Some air traffic has resumed at Tripoli airport, a day after it was seized and shut down by a militia group, say officials.

An Austrian Airlines flight and empty Qatar Airways plane reportedly took off from the airport on Tuesday.

Airport and state officials had warned it would take at least 24 hours for operations to resume due to technical issues caused by the shutdown.

The attack on the airport was carried out by members of the al-Awfea brigade.

The group, from the town of Tahrouna in western Libya, seized the airport in protest at the apparent detention of their leader by security forces.

They pulled out late on Monday after negotiations with authorities, and Libyan state TV is now reporting that the man was kidnapped not by security forces but by other militiamen.

"The airport is operational," Mohammed al-Harizi, spokesman of the ruling National Transitional Council, told AFP news agency.

But several airlines which operate flights into Tripoli told Reuters news agency they would not be resuming services straight away - including British Airways, Emirates and Tunisair.

Austrian Airlines said several flights scheduled for Wednesday would be cancelled.

Airport manager Fadel Bin Nusayer told Reuters engineers from Italy were due to arrive in Tripoli to check on an Alitalia plane, reported to have been hit by a bullet during clashes at the airport on Monday.


Questions are being asked about how the airport could have been so vulnerable to such an assault.

"How can these people... close the airport like this?" asked Adel Salama, a civil society activist in Zintan, a town whose fighters used to control the airport before handing over to the central government back in April.

"Where is the state?" he asked, according to Reuters.

The group reportedly drove in a convoy of some 60 vehicles from Tahrouna, some 80km (50 miles) away, and some are questioning why nothing was done to stop them.

The incident - which saw the brigade place a pick-up truck mounted with an anti-aircraft gun underneath each of the six planes on the tarmac at the time - has also highlighted lapses in security around the airport's perimeter, observers say.

Several international airlines have resumed flights to Libya since the end of the conflict which toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya's interim government took control of the airport in Tripoli in April, taking over from militia fighters who held control until then.