Tripoli airport hit by heavy militia fighting
TRIPOLI - Reuters
Smoke rises near buildings after heavy fighting between rival militias vying for control of Libya’s main airport in the capital city of Tripoli. REUTERS photoHeavy fighting broke out July 13 between rival militias vying for control of Libya’s main airport, killing at least three people and forcing a halt of all flights in the worst fighting in the capital for six months.
Explosions and anti-aircraft gunfire were heard from early morning on the airport road and other parts of Tripoli.
Residents said that Zintan militiamen who had controlled the airport came under fire and local TV footage suggested that the attacking rebels were from the western city of Misratis.
The fighting is part of growing turmoil in the North African oil producer where the government is unable to control battle-hardened militias who helped to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 but continue to defy state authority.
Zintan forces from the northwest, which have controlled the airport since Gadhafi’s ousting, and Misratis had been put on the state payroll in an unsuccessful attempt by the government to win their cooperation and establish the rule of law.
At least three people have been killed and eleven wounded in the current clashes, medics said.
The fighting was the worst in the capital since more than 40 people were killed in clashes between militias and armed residents in November.
Tripoli has seen a spike in kidnappings but has been mostly spared the kind of violence that has rocked the eastern city of Benghazi where clashes between forces of a renegade general and Islamists occur almost daily. The violence comes as the country awaits the results of the June 25 parliamentary elections. Officials and Libya’s partners had hoped the vote would give a push to state building and ease political tensions.