Libyan government starts operation to capture Tripoli International Airport
Libyan government forces announced on Wednesday that they had begun an operation to wrest control of Tripoli International Airport from rogue General Khalifa Haftar's self-styled "Libyan National Army".
Mohammed Qununu, a military spokesman for the UN-recognised Libyan government, said in a Facebook post that government forces have started a campaign to capture the disused airport.
"We have ordered our heroic forces to advance and apprehend the remnants of Haftar's terrorist militias still in Tripoli Airport," he said, referring to the militia leader who controls much of Libya but has recently suffered a series of major setbacks.
Fighting has been taking place around the airport for the past two days. Qununu said that Libyan government forces had surrounded the airport from all sides, "in preparation for its liberation".
Qununu added that the Libyan government's air force had carried out strikes targeting tanks belonging to Haftar's forces in the vicinity of Tripoli International Airport.
It lies 27 kilometres south of the Libyan capital and has not been operational since 2014, when fighting between pro and anti-Haftar militias caused damage to the facilities and destroyed a number of commercial planes.
The smaller Mitiga Airport is currently Tripoli's only functioning civilian airport, operating flights in-and-out of the North African country.
Qununu's announcement took place one day after the United Nations Support Mission in Libya announced that Haftar's forces and the Libyan government had agreed to renewed ceasefire talks.
In April 2019, Haftar's forces began an assault to capture Tripoli from the Libyan government, killing over a thousand people and displacing tens of thousands more.
Recently, the Tripoli-based government has been able to launch a successful counter-offensive, driving Haftar's "Libyan National Army" out of a number of towns in western Libya.
Last month, government forces captured the Watiyah airbase, a major operations hub for Haftar's forces.
The Libyan government has received critical support from Turkey for its offensive, while Haftar receives backing from Egypt, the UAE, and Russia, among others.