By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 21 August 2014:
Flights from specific Libyan airports were banned from landing in Tunisia, while flights from Libya were . . .[restrict]banned from landing in Cairo today.
There had been confusion in Libya earlier in the day as rumours circulated that all Libyan airspace had been closed. Then it was reported that all flights to Tunisia and Egypt were banned.
However, Tunisian authorities confirmed that Tunisia was closing its airspace to Libyan flights specifically originating from Mitiga, Misrata and Sirte airports. The Tunisian flight ban includes Libyan air ambulance flights.
There is no Tunisian flight ban on flights originating from Beida’s Labrak or Tobruk airports. The implication that must be drawn is that Labrak and Tobruk airports are still under central state control, whilst Mitiga, Misrata and Sirte are not.
Egypt has closed its airspace to flights from all Libyan airports specifically to Cairo airport, but will still receive Libyan flights to Alexandria airport. Afriqiyah has already announced that it will divert its Cairo flights to Alexandria.
Afriqiyiah and Mitiga airport have confirmed that Libyan airspace remains open and all other flights to other destinations are scheduled to operate normally.
These flight bans have been reported as “temporary” and for “security reasons”.
The security reasons are believed to relate to the disappearance of five Antonov aircraft from Mitiga airbase when the base was “handed over” by Abdul Rauf Kara to the army. It was the same day – 13 July – that Misratan-led forces launched their attack on Tripoli International Airport.
The Egyptian, Algerian and Tunisian authorities are reported to fear that the aircraft could be used to transport Islamist militants taking part in an assault on their territory or even in a suicide attack.