Incident Reporting by SAFEY
In mid-January 2018, the Mitiga International Airport (MJI) in Tripoli was forced to close for six days due to military clashes inside the airport. In the days following the airport closure, a series of airstrikes, car bombs, explosions and instability also occurred throughout the country, signalling a continued decline in stability cross Libya.
Libya has been facing an ongoing civil conflict, that has intensified significantly since 2014. Beginning with the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi government in 2011, the absence of a strong state exercising authority over the national territory has led to dozens of rival militias and military factions. They are all vying for control of the nation. Additionally, the involvement of foreign actors has also created a complex social and political landscape in the oil-rich country. Over one million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP) have since been reported; and Libya has also seen a spike of refugees escaping to other countries, mainly in Europe. On the economic front, the ongoing conflict has also plunged Libya into a widespread economic crisis, resulting in widespread unemployment, a large-scale devaluation of its currency Dinar and collapsing health and services, thus creating an immense upheaval in the nation.
The clashes in Tripoli’s MJI airport occurred in a context of protracted political, social and economic crises in Libya. Beginning on 15 January, reports were received of fighting between Libya’s Special Deterrence Force (SDF) and ‘Tajoura’s Brigade 33’ militants at a prison facility inside the airport grounds. This resulted in the immediate cancellation of all flights, and the closure of roads and schools surrounding MJI airport facilitates. Later reports would show 20 casualties and over 50 injuries, and the airport took almost six days to be eventually reopened on January 20. For an incident to have such consequences within a country’s main air-transport hub illustrates just how serious the event was and highlights the growing implications of the Libyan crisis to the region as a whole.
Libya’s instability was further evident in the days immediately following the clashes in MJI Airport, with SAFEY issuing nine additional alerts on events throughout the nation. The alerts covered events such as car bombs, unexploded ordinance, tribal conflicts, IS-affiliated militant attacks and even flooding in Tripoli; with much of the conflict centered either in Tripoli or the southeast such as Benghazi. These recent events and associated alerts demonstrate patterns of increasing uncertainty in Libya and the need for ongoing vigilance. SAFEY will continue monitoring and reporting all developments – in Libya and elsewhere – rapidly and accurately, to assist clients in the region and to minimize disruptions as much as possible.
Timeline of Events
The following is a timeline of the events and reporting by SAFEY
Clashes at Tripoli’s Mitiga International Airport were first reported on 15 January, up until the reopening on 20 February. 12 additional alerts were posted: three updates specifically on Tripoli’s airport clashes; and nine following alerts on other events around the country, including car bombs, flooding, air-strikes and tribal clashes.
- First alert by SAFEY at 12:53 (GMT +2) on 15 January
- Information on the airport conflict was received by SAFEY in mid-January, with the first alert on the airport closure being posted at 12:53 (GMT+2). All flights were suspended at Mitiga International Airport (MJI) in Tripoli as clashes occurred between Special Deterrence Force (SDF) and Tajoura’s Brigade 33 militants near a prison facility inside the airport.
- Second alert by SAFEY at 20:02 (GMT +2) on 15 January
- MJI Airport was confirmed as being closed until further notice, following clashes inside the airport. Effects of the clashes were now being reported, with 20 casualties and 63 injuries.
- Third alert by SAFEY at 18:44 (GMT +2) on 17 January
- MJI Airport was confirmed as closed for its third day, on Wednesday 17 January, due to the clashes inside the airport. Increased security, flights and localized ground traffic disruptions were relayed to users.
- Third alert by SAFEY at 03:03 (GMT +2) on 19 January
- MJI Airport announced that it would reopen on Saturday 20 January. Typically, when an airport re-opens it faces further delays as companies attempt to re-establish schedules. SAFEY warned of possible further delays at MJI as airline operators attempted to manage their backlog of flights.
- Continuing alert (unrelated) issued by SAFEY issued at 15:14 (GMT +2) on 21 January
- Soon after Tripoli’s MJI Airport reopened, airstrikes were reported in the Rabiana region, southeast Libya on 21 January. The strikes were reportedly carried out by air forces of the Libya National Army (LNA), targeting Sudanese and Chadian militia stationed in the border regions. The close timing of the event illustrated the ongoing instability within Libya.
- Alert by SAFEY issued at 22:06 (GMT +2) on 24 January
- Two car bomb attacks occurred in Benghazi, killing least 11 people and injuring many others injured. SAFEY issued a red-alert including a SMS notification, which was received by clients in the region (one client).
- Multiple alerts issued by SAFEY issued between 29 January to 3 February
- Multiple alerts on unconnected issues occurred with 3 alerts issued by SAFEY over six days, covering armed clashes in Sabha between Sulaiman and Tabu tribes, unexploded ordinance in Benghazi and clashes between security forces and suspected ISIS militants in Dhahra oil field.
- Two related alerts issued by SAFEY issued on 9 February
- Two alerts were issued covering an explosion at a mosque in Benghazi on Friday, 9 February. The first alert at 14:10 (GMT +2) provided warning of the event, and the second alert provided an update of casualties, and a precise location of the event in Abu Huraira mosque in the Majuri neighbourhood.
- Alert issued by SAFEY issued at 17:48 (GMT +2) on 10 February
- Car bomb reported at a military checkpoint in the eastern city of Sirte. The explosion was reported less than 24 hours after the mosque bombing in Benghazi and continues the pattern of instability in Libya. The report did not include details on casualties, an exact location, or a group responsible for the incident.