Authorities have halted flights at the only functioning civilian airport in Libya‘s capital after it was hit by forces loyal to renegade General Khalifa Haftar, amid rising tensions between the eastern-based commander and Turkey.
Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which has been waging an armed campaign to seize Tripoli from the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), said on Sunday its air force destroyed a Turkish drone parked at Mitiga airport.
“Our fighter [jets] targeted and destroyed a Turkish Bayraktar aircraft as it was taking off,” the LNA said in a statement on Facebook. “The aircraft had been prepared to target our armed forces’ positions,” it said.
Earlier on Sunday, Turkey’s foreign ministry accused Haftar’s forces of arresting six of its citizens, and warned that the LNA would become a “legitimate target” if the Turks were not released immediately.
For its part, the LNA said it had arrested two Turks in the northeastern oil town of Ajdabiya.
Ankara has supplied drones and trucks to forces allied to the GNA, while Haftar’s GNA has received backing from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, according to diplomats. Turkey says it is in Libya to support “regional peace and stability”.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said airport authorities had air traffic until further notice following the air raid.
“Authorities at Mitiga airport said the air strike hit near the runway with no substantial damage,” he said.