Militia in Libya claims control of Tripoli airport

2014-08-24 14:16
Smoke billows from buildings during clashes between Libyan security forces and armed Islamist groups in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi. (Abdullah Doma, AFP)

Smoke billows from buildings during clashes between Libyan security forces and armed Islamist groups in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi. (Abdullah Doma, AFP)

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Tripoli - An Islamist Libyan militia on Sunday said it had captured the main airport in the capital Tripoli from a rival militia.

"The forces of Libya's Dawn have been able to enter the airport after taking control of the strategic Naqlia base," Alaa al-Heweik, a spokesperson for the militia, told independent Libyan broadcaster al-Nabaa. His claims could not be independently verified.

"Clashes are still going on at several other sites," he added without elaborating.

The self-styled Libya's Dawn militia is part of the Islamist-allied Misrata fighters' movement, who have been trying since mid-July to seize the Tripoli International airport from the Zintan militia that is close to the country's centrist political groups.

The newly-elected parliament has declared the Libya's Dawn militia and its allied Ansar al-Sharia to be "terrorist and outlawed" groups.

"They are a legitimate target for the national Libyan army that we strongly support," the parliament said in a statement.

The parliament also sacked chief of the army staff, Major General Abdel-Salam Gadallah, for failing to stop the Islamist militias' advances in Tripoli.

Lawmakers, meeting late on Saturday in the eastern city of Tobruk, voted to appoint Colonel Abdel-Razeq al-Nazuri to the chief of army staff post.

Parliament Speaker Akila Saleh meanwhile renewed a call for the United Nations to intervene in Libya, which in recent months has seen its worst violence since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in an armed revolt in 2011.

"We are still waiting for the international community's intervention to protect Libyans and stop bloodshed," he told the Arabic service of Sky News TV.

Saleh accused unnamed foreigners of inciting unrest in Libya. "There are some quarters offering arms and money to some parties. We know them and will expose them, if God wills, in due time."

In a sign of a mounting power struggle in Libya, the National Council, a former governing legislature dominated by Islamists, plans to reconvene, according to Libyan media reports.

Forces loyal to rogue general Khalifa Haftar have pursued a military campaign against Islamist militias in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi since May.

Some army commanders and local tribes have since backed Haftar's drive. His critics have accused him of seeking power, a charge he has repeatedly denied.

The violence in both Tripoli and Benghazi has prompted several countries to evacuate their citizens, including diplomats, from Libya.

On Monday Egypt is to host a ministerial meeting of Libya's neighbours to discuss the deteriorating situation in the country.

Foreign ministers of Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria and Chad are to attend the meeting to be held in Cairo with the participation of Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi.

On Sunday, Egypt denied an accusation by Libya's Dawn militia that Egyptian warplanes were involved in airstrikes that occurred last week against Islamists in Tripoli.

Since Gaddafi's ousting, Libya's rulers have struggled to re-establish security, with the oil-rich country paralyzed by political infighting and the proliferation of militias and weapons.

Read more on:    libya  |  north africa

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