A militia coalition that controls the Libyan capital Tripoli conducted its first air strikes against forces loyal to the internationally recognised government in a major escalation of the interfactional conflict currently raging in the North African country, the New York Times reported.
Combat aircraft flown by the Libya Dawn group, which includes radical Islamist elements, reportedly attacked an airfield near the western town of Zintan on 17 February. Zintan is close to the border with Tunisia, and is a stronghold of the secular Libyan National Army (formerly known as Operation Dignity) coalition.
The Libyan Air Force currently flies its aircraft in support of the Libyan National Army group, which is allied to the Libyan government that has now abandoned Tripoli to Libya Dawn. The air strikes were said to have been conducted by several MiG fighters that had been captured and repaired by Libya Dawn, and flown by former pilots of the air force now loyal to the group. These were most likely flown from Tripoli’s Mitiga airbase, which houses MiG-23 ‘Flogger’ aircraft.
According to the New York Times report, Libya Dawn claimed the airfield at Zintan was being used to import weapons, ammunition and military support to its opponents. Other nearby locations were also struck in the raid.
The Reuters news agency, which also detailed the attack, said there was limited damage to the airport’s runway but no casualties were reported.