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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Benghazi airport reopens after three-year closure due to fighting

The first outward bound flights from Benina Airport on Saturday were to the capital, Tripoli, to Amman, and to the southeastern Libyan city of Kufra

A plane takes off from Benina Airport, east of Benghazi, on July 15, 2017. Esam Omran Al Fetori / Reuters
A plane takes off from Benina Airport, east of Benghazi, on July 15, 2017. Esam Omran Al Fetori / Reuters

Benghazi's international airport has officially reopened for commercial flights amid a heavy security presence after a three-year closure due to fighting in the city.

The first outward bound flights from Benina Airport on Saturday were to the capital, Tripoli, to Amman, and to the southeastern Libyan city of Kufra. Flights are also scheduled to and from Tunis, Istanbul, Alexandria, and the western Libyan city of Zintan.

The flights are operated by two state-owned companies, Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways.

Benina is just east of Benghazi, Libya's second city, where fighting escalated in the summer of 2014 when forces loyal to Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar — who is aligned with Libya's elected parliament in the east of the country — launched a military campaign against Islamists and other opponents.

Earlier this month, Field Marshall Haftar declared victory in the campaign for Benghazi as his forces battled rivals in their last downtown holdouts.

Travellers and airport staff expressed relief at no longer having to travel to Labraq airport, a four-hour drive east of Benghazi, which had replaced Benina as the main airport for the eastern part of the country.

In recent months, some official and cargo flights had already begun flying from Benina. There is also a military airport at Benina, which continued operating throughout the conflict as Field Marshall Haftar's forces targeted their rivals with air strikes.

Tripoli's international airport was badly damaged by fighting in 2014, and flights have since operated out of the smaller Mitiga airport near the centre of the capital.