By Sami Zaptia.
London, 1 October 2020:
Khalifa Hafter’s Libyan National Army (LNA) was roundly condemned yesterday for preventing an Afriqiyah Airlines civilian flight from landing at Sebha airport.
The LNA blocked the runway using military vehicles, forcing the control tower to turn the flight back to Tripoli’s Mitiga airport. It was the first flight from Tripoli to Sebha since flights were resumed last week.
The Tripoli Interior Ministry strongly condemned the action saying the airport blockade reflects the LNA commanders’ outlook as evidenced in their oil blockade and other actions against the interests of the Libyan people. They called upon the international community and UN to take note of the incident.
The bloc of southern House of Representatives members also condemned the action as being irresponsible. They said the LNA Command had denied issuing instructions to blockade Sebha airport, however, the LNA have since accepted responsibility for the action.
They HoR southern bloc called upon the LNA to initiate an investigation into their regional commander for interfering in a civilian utility. They also took advantage of the occasion to register complaints against the regional LNA commander on his fuel distribution policy, and lack of effectiveness against smuggling, illegal migration, and terrorist group activity.
A group of local civilian protesters held an impromptu demonstration on the runway against the LNA’s action.
The LNA confirmed today that its blockade was an attempt to force all flights from Tripoli controlled areas to land in eastern Libya first before continuing to their destinations within Hafter controlled territory. They said this was on ”security grounds”. They said they want to check all passengers to prevent Tripoli from sending terrorists/extremists.
The incident does go against the grain of recent ‘‘positive’’ reports in dialogues between the west and east in Egypt, Montreux, and Rabat. It could be an attempt by Hafter to remind the talks – that have gone out of their way to exclude him – that he still enjoys some coercive leverage on the ground.