Clashes close Libyan capital's main intl. airport, kill 9
Fierce clashes in the Libyan capital Tripoli have forced the closure of the city’s only functioning international airport as reports suggest at least nine have been killed in the armed confrontation between rival militant groups.
According to Press TV, authorities suspended all flights at Mitiga airport until further notice on Monday as heavy gunfire and artillery could be heard from Tripoli’s central neighborhoods.
A Health Ministry official said a nearby hospital had received the bodies of at least nine militants. There were also reports in local media about injuries among 28 others.
The clashes reportedly came after a militant group based in Tripoli’s Tajoura neighborhood launched attacks on rival Special Deterrence Force (Rada), a powerful outfit which controls the airport and has kept militants from Tajoura in a prison next to Mitiga.
Mitiga is a military air base that has been Tripoli’s main airport since the city’s international airport became out of service due to destruction it suffered in fighting over the past years.
Sources close to Rada released images from streets surrounding the airport showing pick-up trucks mounted with guns and a tank.
Rada was among the militia groups that decided recently to align with Libya’s internationally-recognized government in a bid to consolidate its control over areas in Tripoli. However, the capital city remains largely divided between rival militants seven years after the fall and death of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
The United Nations-backed government of Libya has yet to exert its control over much of the oil-rich North African country as a rival administration in the east and its powerful army continue to challenge Tripoli’s rule as they rely on support from some of Libya’s neighbors and certain rich Arab states.