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Chaos and fear in Libya's Mitiga airport after missiles halt air traffic

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By Ahmed Elumami

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Missiles on Monday hit Tripoli’s only functioning Mitiga airport which remained closed to air traffic, causing chaos and fear among passengers, witnesses said.

Authorities announced the closure of the airport’s air space twice on Monday after it was hit by rockets. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

After the destruction of Tripoli International Airport in 2014 in a civil war between armed groups vying for power, Mitiga became the area’s only airport running domestic and international flights.

The airport has been targeted with missiles on different occasions in recent years as OPEC member Libya slid into chaos following the fall of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

A few minutes after the airport resumed air traffic on Monday, passengers preparing to board a Tunisia-bound plane had to be taken back to the terminal when three missiles were seen falling nearby, a Reuters witness said.

Libyans mainly fly to Tunisia for better medical services.

“A missile fell on an open area and caused a black smoke,” the witness said.

Many passengers had to return to Tripoli as flights were cancelled due to security concerns while others queued in front of airline agencies to seek information.

“When will this tragedy end?” a woman said while holding her daughter and staring at the black smoke caused by the attack.

Many people were also seen rushing to their relatives who had been scheduled to take off.

Airport staff said air traffic would likely resume on Wednesday morning.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

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