TRIPOLI (Reuters) - A Libyan passenger plane with some 150 passengers on board was shot at as it prepared to land at Tripoli airport on Wednesday evening but sustained no major damage, airline sources said.
The Buraq Air Boeing 737 was a few miles (kms) from the capital’s airport when the incident occurred early in the evening.
It was not immediately clear whether it was accidental fire or an attack. Celebratory gunfire is a regular occurrence in post-war Libya, which is awash with weapons left over from the 2011 war that ousted long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi.
“As the plane prepared to land at Tripoli airport, it was hit on the bottom, in the lavatory at the front of the plane,” a Buraq Air source said. “The plane landed safely afterwards.”
A second airline source added: “We do not know exactly what happened but we believe this was accidental fire. Security at the airport has been stepped up and so far nothing suspicious has been found.”
The plane was on a flight to Tripoli from the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
“People started to panic inside and one woman was later taken to hospital to be treated for shock,” the first source said, adding some 150 passengers were on board the plane.
The source said the airline had temporarily suspended flights to and from Tripoli.
Some 18 months after Gaddafi’s ouster, Libya’s government is struggling to impose its authority on a myriad of armed groups who refuse to lay down their weapons and often take the law into their own hands.
In June, clashes broke out between rival Libyan militias at Tripoli’s international airport after gunmen drove armed pickup trucks onto the tarmac and surrounded planes, forcing the airport to cancel flights.
Reporting by Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Michael Roddy