Sabha, Libya resumes commercial flight operations

Sebha International Airport, in the southwest of Libya, resumed commercial passenger flight operations on 16 August. The airfield, which has suffered from security issues for several years, had been closed since January 2014.

A commercial flight landed in the oasis town from the north-eastern city of Benghazi. The  state-owned regional carrier Afriqiyah Airways now provides a weekly service from Benghazi using an A320.

Since death of Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the south region has suffered with security problems, more so than the rest of the country, but the situation in Sebha improved compared to other parts of the north African region. Much of the fighting between tribesmen in August has been in Murzuq, the south, according to the UN.

A ceremony greeted the arrival of the aircraft in the presence of city officials, civil society institutions, according to the Libya Observer, which added that the flight had previously been scheduled for 9 August but was postponed due to a technical failure.

But the situation remains volatile. The US magazine Foreign Policy reported in April that whoever controls Libya’s airports and critical infrastructure controls the country. Currently, the forces of Khalifa Haftar and the Benghazi-based militia the Libyan National Army control the Sabha region together with the centre and northeast of the country, but only as far south as Murzuq. Haftar gave the go-ahead for the resumption of flights to Sabha in February after the LNA lifted a No-Fly-Zone embargo on the southern regions.

The resumption of flights is the culmination of months of work by airport staff performing maintenance, processing, cleaning, and reanimating damaged equipment, airport director Mohamed Ouahida told local media. He added that Haftar’s forces had secured the perimeter of the airport in a 20km radius and were overseeing its security.

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