Libya: air-strikes on Misrata as fighting spreads

The rapidly escalating civil war in Libya on Dec. 28 saw the first air-strikes on Misrata, the country's third city, since the fall of the Qaddafi regime in 2011. Warplanes under the command of Gen. Khalifa Haftar fired missiles at the city's airport—just 30 minutes before a Turkish Airlines flight was due to leave for Istanbul. The fighter jets went on to attack Libya's largest steel plant and an air force academy near the airport, which are under the control of Islamist forces. (Irish Independent, Dec. 29) The Misrata attacks came days after Egypt (which is said to be backing Gen. Haftar) issued a warning about international terrorist groups using Libyan territory as a staging ground, especially in the remote south. Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that Nigeria's Boko Haram is among the groups that have established camps in southern Libya. (MENA, Dec. 23)

Libya's "recognized" government has contracted an unnamed US firm to extinguish blazes at storage tanks at Es Sider oil port, which have been burning out of control since they were hit by missile fire in fighting with rebel forces Dec. 25. The tanks are owned by ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and Hess Corp. Libya is surviving on a mere 128,000 barrels per day from fields connected to the eastern port of Hariga, while fighting has shut the major ports Es Sider and Ras Lanuf. The western ports of Zawiya and Mellitah have also halted exports as fighting has shut the connecting fields of El Sharara and El Feel. (Reuters, Dec. 30; Reuters, Dec. 29) 

On Dec. 30, a suicide bomber detonated a car laden with explosives in front of a hotel where Libya's "recognized" parliament was in session in the eastern city of Tobruk, wounding three deputies and eight others. With the Islamist-led Libya Dawn coalition in control of Tripoli, the recognized government of  Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has taken refuge in Tobruk. Al-Thinni has pledged a military offensive to re-take Tripoli in the coming weeks. (Reuters, Dec. 30; Reuters, Dec. 12 via Times of Malta)