(Recasts with deported Egyptians, Labraq airport open again)
BENGHAZI, Libya Nov 1 (Reuters) – About 600 Egyptians have
been refused entry to Libya on arrival at Tripoli’s Matiga
airport due to invalid visas, an airport official said on
The airport, like the rest of the Libyan capital, is under
the control of an armed group with Islamist links which seized
Tripoli in August. The new rulers have set up their own
government and parliament, forcing the internationally
recognised Prime Minster Abdullah al-Thinni to move to the east.
Libya has refused entry to Egyptian workers before, due to
forged or expired visas, but some Libyan social media websites
linked the decision to Egypt’s support for Thinni’s government.
Operation Dawn, the armed group controlling Tripoli, has
accused Egypt of having flown repeated air strikes on targets in
Tripoli and Benghazi, the main eastern city.
Egypt denies this but Egyptian officials have said Cairo is
supporting Libya’s nascent army to fight Islamist militants.
Egypt has also tightened visa rules for Libyan men and
banned Libyan carriers from using Cairo airport for security
reasons, forcing them to fly from the smaller Alexandria
airport. State-run Egypt Air has stopped flying to Libya.
Egypt is worried about the spread of Islamist militants in
Libya which is gripped by lawlessness three years after the
ousting of strongman Muammar Gaddafi. Like other countries,
Cairo has not recognised the Tripoli-based parallel government.
In eastern Libya, authorities reopened Labraq airport which
had been closed for two days due to security reasons, the
airport director said.
Gunmen have repeatedly fired Grad rockets into Labraq
airport, east of Benghazi. Benghazi’s airport has been shut
since May when a former general declared war on Islamists.
(Reporting by Feras Bosalum, Ayman al-Warfalli, Ahmed Elumami
and Ulf Laessing; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Stephen