January 24, 2015 / 8:04 PM / 3 years ago

Volatile Libya resumes commercial flights to Europe

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Commercial flights from Libya to mainland Europe resumed after more than six months on Saturday with a Libyan carrier taking off to Germany, the airline said.

Foreign airlines stopped flying to Libya in July when a faction called Libya Dawn attacked a rival group controlling Tripoli’s main airport, taking control of the capital after a month of fighting.

Libya Dawn has set up a rival government and forced the internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni to the east.

The airport and some 20 planes were damaged during the fighting, officials have said.

Turkish Airlines briefly returned last year to fly to Misrata, east of Tripoli, before halting flights this month due to repeated air strikes on the airport, part of a struggle between Libya’s two governments.

On Saturday, a Libyan state carrier Afriqiyah plane flew from Tripoli’s Matiga airport to Duesseldorf, the airline and the German airport said. The airline also plans to fly to Rome in the coming days, it said.

To circumvent a flight ban by the European Union, Libyan carriers need to contract firms operating planes registered in the EU.

With no foreign carriers serving Libya, state carriers operating a depleted fleet struggle to meet demand for tickets.

Connections are limited to Turkey and neighboring countries, some of which like Egypt do not allow flights to Tripoli, which is under control of the rival government.

The main eastern airport Benghazi has been closed since May due to fighting in the city.

The United Nations and most Western and Arab countries evacuated their diplomats in the summer during fighting between factions who are battling for control of the oil-producing state four years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Rosalind Russell

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