By Moutaz Mathi.
Tripoli, 31 August 2016:
Mitiga Airport is operating again after a Misratan militia forced fights to be diverted to Misrata yesterday.
The trouble started when a Tripoli militia, said to be the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade led by Haithem Tajouri, deflated the tyres of an Afriqiyah Airways A330 Airbus to prevent it taking off. It was due to fly 250 injured soldiers who are part of the Bunyan Marsous forces to Tunis.
In retaliation, a Misratan force went to the Aviation Control Centre (OCC) next to Tripoli International Aiport and forced staff to divert all flights heading to Maitiga to Misrata airport.
As a result, a Libyan Wings flight from Tunis and an Afriqiyah one from Istanbul had to land in Misrata while an Afiqiyah flight returned to Labraq from where it had taken off. Mitiga finally reopened late last night but Libyan Wings cancelled its flight to Istanbul today.
The reason for the attack on the Afriqiyah airbus is unknown. There were reports that those responsible had claimed that the airline had used the larger A330 aircraft to speed up the movement of the Bunyan Marsous wounded so that it could then lease it to a Turkish carrier, the suggestion being that the militia was angry at this happening without their involvement. This produced a denial today from Afriqiyah which said that it simply used the larger aircraft because of the large number of soldiers needing to be flown to Tunisia.
Yesterday in a statement, Afriqiyah also suggested it might stop using Mitiga.
“We hold the authorities at Mitiga airport responsible for what happened today and this will effect negatively on our counting on Mitiga airport. What happened today confirms the national and international claims that Maitigia airport is out of the governmental control.”
However, today Afriqiyah was again flying from the airport.
Meanwhile it is thought the real reason for the militia deflating the airbus tyres was that it wanted to take action against Misrata.
Haithem Tajouri is firmly opposed to the Misratans at present.