Libya pro-unity govt forces reseize Tripoli int’l airport: spokesman

Forces backing Libya’s unity government said Wednesday they had reseized Tripoli international airport after heavy fighting with rival troops supporting strongman Khalifa Haftar.

“Our forces have fully liberated Tripoli International Airport,” said Mohamad Gnounou, spokesman for forces backing the Government of National Accord in a statement.

The airport, in a strategic area on the capital’s southern edges, has been closed since 2014 and had been seized by pro-Haftar forces last year.

Forces loyal to the east Libyan strongman have been battling since April 2019 to seize Tripoli from the UN-recognised GNA, in fighting that has left hundreds dead and forced 200,000 to flee their homes.

Pro-GNA forces “are chasing Haftar’s militias, who are fleeing (southwards) towards Gasr Ben Gashir”, Gnounou said.

The operation to retake the country’s largest civilian airport began Wednesday morning, with drones providing air cover, Gnounou added.

For the past two weeks, pro-GNA forces have been carrying out large-scale ground and air attacks, surrounding the airport area before the final assault on Wednesday, he said.

Pro-Haftar forces have not commented on the setback, but the loss of the airport follows a string of defeats for Haftar in recent weeks.

GNA forces buoyed by Turkish drones and air defence systems have taken back a string of coastal towns and a key airbase Haftar had used to launch attacks.

While the GNA is backed by Turkey, Haftar is supported by neighbouring Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as well as Russia.

Libya has been mired in conflict since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with two rival administrations and scores of militias struggling for power.