Runway of Benghazi airport in east of country ’destroyed’ by bombs, company says

Capita Symonds has said the airport it was redeveloping in Benghazi, in eastern Libya, has had its runway destroyed by bombs.

Managing director Jonathan Goring said that a Foreign and Commonwealth office statement confirmed that the airport’s runway had been bombed and destroyed.

The statement confirms comments this morning by Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit that the airport had been destroyed.

The Capita Symonds site is adjacent to the existing airport and there are no reports of it being damaged.

It is not known whether the bombing was by protesters, who have captured Benghazi and much of the east of the country, or the Libyan regime. However, two government pilots sought asylum in Malta yesterday saying they had refused to bomb the rebel city.

Goring said that Capita Symonds had been working as designers and project managers on a complete redevelopment of the airport, which had been due to finish in around 18 months time.

He said it was too early to say whether Capita Symonds would return to work in the country if Gaddafi managed to hold on to power.

“We’re just going to led the situation play itself out,” he said. “We have been concentrating on the safety of our people over there.”

The 16 staff that had been working on the project left it over the weekend, the company said in a statement, while the firm’s office in Tripoli is closed.

“Over the weekend three UK-based Capita Symonds staff were evacuated by charter plane to Athens while 13 other Capita Symonds staff - who are Libyan nationals - returned immediately to ‘designated areas of safety’ such as their homes outside of the city or in other parts of the country,” it said.

“The Capita Symonds satellite office in Tripoli, meanwhile, will remain closed for the duration of the protests. The safety and wellbeing of our employees remains our top priority and we are constantly monitoring the situation.”