20 July 2014

Libya: Islamists Renew Assault On Airport

Photo: Kate Thomas/IRIN
A Libyan rebel fighter

Islamist militia have launched their heaviest attack so far on Libya's main airport, security officials say. The assault comes two days after a truce with rival militants collapsed.

Officials said bombardment of the airport resumed early on Sunday after cease-fire efforts between the two groups battling for control of Tripoli's international airport failed.

At least two people were reported to have been killed when a stray rocket hit their house, a security official told AP news agency.

The two militias - one from the western city of Zintan, which controls the facility, and one composed of Islamist-led fighters including militants from Misrata, to the east of Tripoli - have been fighting over the airport for a week. The fighting has caused extensive damage to planes and airport infrastructure.

Aviation officials say the airport will have to remain closed for months.

Security chaos

The airport in the capital is a main transport hub in the North African country, and has gained even more importance after the second largest one in Benghazi was closed down by violent clashes months ago.

The online newspaper "Libya Herald" said earlier this week that more than 35 people had been killed in fighting around the airport so far.

Militias of various leanings have run riot in the country following the ouster and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

A parliamentary election on June 25, in which the Islamists were defeated, has done nothing to resolve the tensions between rival towns, tribes, regions and the central government.

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