Libya’s internationally-recognized government, based in the west of the country, has seized a Libyan Airlines aircraft operating from Benghazi in the east.
The aircraft was seized at Misrata airport after it flew there for maintenance from Benghazi’s Benina airport on Sunday.
“The problem was fixed by the company’s engineers at Misrata airport and after preparing the plane for takeoff, it was stopped by Hussain Ballaou, the assistant manager of Misrata airport,” the airline’s Benghazi management said in a statement on Facebook.
The carrier’s Benghazi spokesman, Ezzedine al-Mashnoun, said the incident was causing serious disruption to the flight schedule. The plane operates three flights to international destinations daily.
The authorities in eastern Libya have given Misrata airport hours to return the plane or “they must take responsibility for other escalatory measures in their airspace.”
In a tit for tat move, authorities in the eastern city of Benghazi have ordered stoppages and checks on all flights traveling over eastern territory from either Misrata or Tripoli to Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan.
Libya has been split between rival camps based in west and the east since 2014.
The latest incident underlines the warring sides’ competition for control of Libya’s institutions and infrastructure.
In April, the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) force, led by renegade general Khalifa Haftar, launched an offensive for control of the capital and has since been battling forces aligned with the Tripoli government.
Libya plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his execution by unruly fighters.
His ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of numerous militant outfits, including the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group.
The country’s internationally-recognized government has been attempting to establish order despite the actions of the rival camp in the east meant to grab power.