A Libyan militia loyal to a rogue general came under attack from Islamist rivals in a battle near Tripoli’s international airport, leaving at least six dead and forcing the cancellation of flights.
The clashes also left 25 people injured, Al Arabiya satellite channel reported yesterday. Smoke could be seen billowing from the airport after at least one rocket struck the facility. Members of the Libya Safety and Stability Force, a grouping of two militias, breached the airport compound as they clashed with the rival Al-Qaqaa Brigade that’s been guarding the facility, Al-Nabaa TV reported.
The fighting is the latest example of the turmoil that has battered Libya for more than three years, crippling the oil export capacity of the nation that sits atop Africa’s largest proven reserves of conventional crude. It’s also exposing the weakness of a central government largely beholden to militias that helped topple Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
“We’re under attack,” Colonel Ali Al-Nalouti, head of Al-Qaqaa Brigade, said by phone. The assault came from an “Ikhwani group,” he said, using the Arabic term for the Muslim Brotherhood. He declined to provide further details.
The near constant battles between militias, who also double as police and security forces, has taken on a new twist in the past few weeks amid efforts by rogue General Khalifa Haftar to crush Islamists that he has described as “terrorists,” undermining Libya’s stability efforts.
Al-Qaqaa, which hails from the western Zintan region and has been guarding the facility, is among the forces loyal to Haftar. The Safety and Security Force groups the Tripoli Revolutionary Room, which had earlier kidnapped former Prime Minister Ali Zaidan, and the Libya Shield, an Islamist militia.
The interim government asked those involved in the clashes to end the violence, state-run LANA reported, citing a statement. The government said it has ordered Interior Ministry and army forces to secure the city’s streets and vital installations and has declared a state of emergency in hospitals and health facilities, LANA reported.