By Jamel Adel.
Aerial surveillance and improved control over the south-western border area were under discussion yesterday when the commander of . . .[restrict]the Libyan air defense forces, Air Commodore Juma El-Abani, made surprise visit to the south-west border town of Ghat. Facilities at the local airbase, which also serves as the civil airport, were also discussed.
“We discussed a number of issues related to the area and strategies on controlling the borders,” Ghat military airbase commander Abdu Anabi told the Libya Herald. He added: “We discussed possibilities of upgrading the military airbase and even the civil airport to end the town’s long isolation.”
The need for improved aerial surveillance in the region to combat illegal migration, smuggling and the potential movement of terrorists has been long urged by local officials, the military and the European Union, but has so far failed to materialise.
Development of the airport, used partly also by the military base, is taking place. The complete repaving is being carried out by Italian firm Con-I-Cos at a cost of LD 48.5 million.
“The building work hasn’t completely finished so far,” airport manager Al-Tayyeb Maka said. “The contract was first signed in 2009, but the repaving was disrupted during the revolution, and resumed again in May 2013”. The reason was that it was impossible to shut the airport down completely to do the job.
“The town is very far from almost everywhere, so we can’t keep the airport closed for the rebuilding because people need to fly in and out,” explained Maka, adding that there are now three flights a week between Tripoli and the largely Tuareg-inhabited town.
Even so, the Transport Minister Abdelgader Ahmed last month promised that the work would be complete very soon.
The town and the surrounding district has an estimated population of 25,000. [/restrict]