Politics & Economics

Who gains from the shutting down of Mitiga Airport?

North Africa

The temporary closure of the Mitiga International Airport is likely just what the Libya National Army wanted as a result of its shelling.

Mitiga International Airport, which is located under 10km east of the city centre of Libya’s capital city Tripoli, has been temporarily suspended.The Libyan Ministry of Transportation of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) decided to halt all flights into and out of the airport from 2 September 2019.

The temporary suspension was announced by Chairman of Libyan Civil Aviation Authority Naser al-Deen Shaib al-Ain. The deputy minister of transportation Hisham Bushikawat announced that only emergency landings will be permitted for the meantime. Libyan Airlines, Afriqiyah Airways, Buraq Air and Libyan Wings declared that they would be moving their flights to Misrata Airport for the time being. Misrata is around 200km away from the capital.

Mitiga International Airport was shut down for security reasons. The airport had been targeted by missiles on a number of occasions and it was suspended a few times. The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by strongman Khalifa Haftar, recently launched missiles at the airport, which led to the injuries of a number of people returning from their pilgrimage.

Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga and Transport Minister Milad Maatouq recently met to discuss ways for security and intelligence units to secure the airport from future attacks.

The temporary closure of the Mitiga International Airport is likely to play into the hands of the LNA, which is continuing its military battle against the GNA’s forces as it attempts to advance towards the Libyan capital. The LNA launched its offensive on Tripoli in April of this year, and military clashes in and around the Libyan capital have continued unabated.

There are fears that the conflict in Libya will escalate. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that he fears the country will spiral into a “full civil war” unless “action is taken in the near-term”. The involvement of external force is likely to prolong and exacerbate the dynamics of the conflict.