World Bulletin / News Desk
Libya closed its air space over Benghazi airport temporarily because of heavy anti-aircraft fire aiming at U.S. reconnaissance drones flying over the city, days after the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in an attack.
The closure of the airport prompted speculation that the United States was deploying special forces in preparation for an attack against the suspects who were involved in the attack.
A Libyan official said the spy planes flew over the embassy compound and the city, taking photos and inspecting locations of groups who are alleged to have planned and staged the attack on the U.S. consulate on Tuesday.
Fighters used anti-aircraft guns to fire at the drones, forcing the authorities to shut the airport because they feared for the safety of passenger planes.
"Two American drones flew over Benghazi last night with knowledge of the Libyan authorities," Deputy Interior Minister, Wanis al-Sharif told Reuters. "They were visible to the eye, and came under attack by anti-aircraft weapons used by armed militias."
"For this reason, Benghazi security decided to close down the Benghazi airport airspace. Any decision to allow an operation of any sort on Libya soil will be made in coordination with the congress and the new government."
Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the other Americans died after gunmen attacked the lightly fortified U.S. consulate and a safe house refuge in Benghazi on Tuesday night. The attack, which U.S. officials believe could have been planned in advance, emerged from a protest blaming America for a film they said insulted the Prophet Mohammad.
Ali al-Shaikhi, spokesman for the Army Chief of Staff said Western allied forces, who helped Libyan rebels to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year, continued to fly planes and drones over Libyan airspace to help Libya keep its skies safe.
He said that they had increased flights in the past few days due to the worsening security situation.
"News came out that there were American drones in the air and so the airport received threats from unknown groups that they would attack any American planes circling over Benghazi. This led the airport to take the decision to close the airspace to take precautions."
The U.S. military was moving two destroyers toward the coast of the North African state, giving the Obama administration flexibility for any future action against threats, the officials said.
But a member of the Libyan national assembly told Reuters: "The Americans may have spoken to our President or Chief of Staff to coordinate an attack on the radical groups in Benghazi but they have not approached us as a Congress (assembly) yet."
"I believe that so far we as Libyans can take care of the operation ourselves because the militias feel they are part of Libyan society, but if we have Americans come in with an operation then these militias will also turn on us," he
"For sure we will need the Americans for their logistical and technical support and expertise, and we will ask them for it when the time comes. But for now we need to try to do it ourselves."
Airport manager Taba Mohammed said the closure ran for about 10 hours from 0030 GMT. U.S. officials said earlier a Marine Corps anti-terrorist squad was being sent into Libya to shore up security.
"We have now reopened the air space. It was closed for routine security checks," Mohammed told Reuters.
Turkish Airlines said the closure of Benghazi air space had forced one of its flights with 121 people aboard to turn back to Istanbul on Friday.
International Organization for Migration chief says 'refugees bring a lot of motivation'
Stockholm-based course will 'have both the Swedish perspective, and also Muslim knowledge' says school principal
Shelling comes amid ongoing campaign to wrest war-battered city from ISIL
According to Rami Hamdallah, Israeli PM Netanyahu is only 'trying to buy time'
'The agreement will allow Sudan to build in the future a nuclear plant to generate nuclear energy for peaceful use,' Sudanese electricity ministry says
A US surveillance plane had its transponders turned off during anincident near the Russian border
Britain has granted refugee status to former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed who was imprisoned in 2015 after a trial that drew international criticism
Police have lifted a number of blockades but a number of French regions have resorted to imposing fuel restrictions per vehicle.
Police claim operation to transfer thousands of people will be smooth and gradual
EIB eyes increasing its contributions to projects aimed at mitigating refugee crisis
Ukrainian leader Petro Porochenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel along with France's Hollande and Russia's Putin also call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the eastern Ukraine
State Dept. does not support group's desire for semi-autonomous zones in northern Syria
Turkish presidential sources say Erdogan and Merkel agree to revisit thorny issue of anti-terror law reform
Interior Ministry reports a record increase in far-right violence, attacks against asylum centers
Azerbaijani president says 1 million 'have been forced to flee the places they were born' by Armenian actions
It took only 31,000 votes for Alexander Van der Bellen the "lesser evil" to beat far-right Norbert Hofer