Libyan plane returns to Tripoli after Egypt closes airspace
CAIRO Tue Feb 17, 2015 11:56am EST
Feb 17 (Reuters) – A Libyan commercial plane bound for Istanbul was forced to return to Tripoli on Tuesday after Egypt banned overflying its airspace, airport and airline sources said.
There was no immediate comment from Egypt which launched air strikes on Monday on suspected targets of Islamic State in Libya, a day after the group released a video showing the beheading of Egyptian Coptic Christians.
The ban will push Libya, battling to contain a violent power struggle, further into isolation as Turkey was one of last countries where Libyan airlines were still flying to. Foreign carriers have left the oil producer.
Libyan airlines flying to Turkey need to cross Egyptian airspace to avoid Cyprus as the European Union has imposed an overfly ban for security reasons.
The Libyan Airline plane took off for Istanbul from Tripoli’s Matiga airport but returned after Egypt informed the carrier that it was not allowed to enter Egyptian airspace, the airline and airport said on their websites.
Morocco earlier said it had suspended all flights between Moroccan cities and Libya for security concerns.
Foreign airlines stopped flying to Libya last July when a faction called Libya Dawn attacked a rival group controlling Tripoli’s main airport, taking control of the capital after a months of fighting. The airport and some 20 planes were damaged during the fighting, officials have said.
Turkish Airlines briefly returned last year to fly to Misrata, east of Tripoli. But it halted flights last month due to repeated attacks on the airport, part of a struggle between the rival factions that have fought for power since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Alison Williams)