TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Warplanes from Libya’s internationally recognized government on Thursday attacked the only functioning commercial airport in Tripoli, the capital controlled by a rival administration, officials said.
The attack on Matiga airport, a military base used for commercial flights after the main airport closed following heavy fighting there last summer, damaged the runway but repairs should be finished later in the day, an airport spokesman said.
The bombing extended a series of tit-for-tat attacks between the rival governments and parliaments battling for control of the large North African country and its oil resources four years after rebels ousted veteran autocrat Muammar Gaddafi.
The recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and the elected parliament have been confined to eastern Libya since an armed faction seized Tripoli last summer, reinstating the previous assembly and setting up a rival administration.
“Fighting jets conducted air strikes on Matiga airport early today which damaged the runway,” said airport spokesman Abdulsalam Buamoud. No one was hurt.
Mohamed El Hejazi, a spokesman of forces allied to Thinni, claimed responsibility for the attack. “The strike is part of a war against terrorism that will continue until Libya has been freed of terrorism,” he said.
The attack came days after officials in Zintan, a western region allied to Thinni, had accused the Tripoli-based government of launching air strikes against its local airport.
Both sides are aligned with rival armed factions that have been fighting over territory and oil facilities while Islamist militants have exploited the chaos to carve out fiefdoms.
The United Nations hopes to resume peace talks in Morocco on Thursday, trying to persuade both sides to form a national government and agree on local ceasefires.
The talks have been going on since September. The U.N. said earlier this month progress had been made but both sides are divided in a country where former rebel groups that helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 now effectively call the shots.
Reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Tom Heneghan