September 1, 2019 / 12:19 PM / 15 days ago

Artillery fire shuts airport in Libyan capital

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The only functioning airport in the Libyan capital was closed on Sunday after being struck by artillery fire overnight.

FILE PHOTO: An interior of Mitiga airport terminal is seen empty, after an air strike in Tripoli, Libya April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Hani Amara/File Photo

There were conflicting reports on the number of injuries at Mitiga airport. A media officer for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said four people had been wounded, including three haj pilgrims.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said four projectiles hit the civilian parts of the airport including a runway, resulting in damage to a plane carrying dozens of pilgrims and wounding two crew members.

“These vicious attacks are designed to sow fear, create chaos and disrupt operations at the only working airport in the Libyan capital Tripoli,” it said in a statement.

Nearby Mitiga hospital received one small girl who had been wounded, a doctor there told Reuters.

Photos on social media showed a damaged passenger jet operated by Libyan Airlines. Some cars parked at the airport were also damaged, a Reuters witness said.

Four Libyan airlines moved their operations to Misrata airport, some 200 km (125 miles) east of Tripoli, until further notice, they said on their websites.

The source of the attack was not immediately clear. Mitiga, just east of central Tripoli, has repeatedly come under attack in the past several months, forcing it to halt flights for several hours.

The airport has been targeted during fighting involving the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which launched an offensive in April for control of the capital and has been battling forces aligned with the GNA.

UNSMIL said the attack was the seventh incident of indiscriminate shelling on Mitiga since the end of July. It was documenting the incident to submit its findings to the International Criminal Court and U.N. Security Council, it said.

The LNA, which has previously hit the airport with air strikes, had said it was targeting an operation room of Turkish drones at the facility.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad and Yousef Saba; Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter

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