Two Airports in Libya Shelled: Who is Responsible for These Attacks?

North Africa

Two air raids conducted by the Libyan National Army (LNA) targeted the airports of Mitiga, located close to the capital of Libya, Tripoli, and Misrata, situated further east.

The LNA released a statement noting that the airports were targeted in order to neutralise installations were “Turkish drones” were allegedly being prepared for use. This was confirmed by the spokesperson for the LNA, Ahmed Mismari, who stated that “one hundred percent of our targets were struck and our jets returned to their bases safe and sound”.

This is not the first time that the LNA has targeted air bases, which the LNA believes are being used as drone facilities supported by Turkey. An LNA air raid was conducted around two weeks ago on the Gardabiya air base south of the city of Sirte. Attacks on Mitiga International Airport have also been intermittently conducted, leading to the frequent closure of the airport.

The Government of National Accord (GNA), the primary target of the LNA, has expressed suspicions that the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a significant backer of the LNA, were involved in the attack. Indeed, the LNA has been known to use UAE drones in past attacks.

The roles of external forces in providing backing to the main political and military factions in Libya have increased over the course of the civil conflict in the country. Turkish military officers are known to oversee GNA military operations. Turkey has had a historical presence in Libya mainly linked to commercial interests, which it seeks to protect amidst the political and military chaos.

In addition, elements of geopolitical rivalries within the Gulf have been extrapolated to the Libyan context. Qatar is known to provide political and financial support to elements linked to the GNA as well as a number of Islamist groupings, while the UAE has provided various forms of support to the LNA and has played an active military role militarily. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have also listed a number of Qatari-backed groups as terrorist organisations.

Libya is suffering from elements of a proxy war being encouraged by foreign powers with economic, geopolitical and ideological interests in the country. The recent air strike and the reactions following it are another testament to the proxy elements of the war in Libya.