Heavy fighting breaks out near Libya’s Tripoli airport

Flights cancelled as militia groups exchange rocket fire

A Benghazi TV  employee inspects damage in the Libyan television station’s studios after an artillery shell landed on its roof earlier this week. Photograph: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

A Benghazi TV employee inspects damage in the Libyan television station’s studios after an artillery shell landed on its roof earlier this week. Photograph: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

Sun, Jul 13, 2014, 09:51

Heavy fighting between militias with anti-aircraft guns and rocket propelled grenades broke out near the airport of the Libyan capital Tripoli today.

Explosions could be heard on the airport road and other parts of Tripoli though it was not immediately clear who was fighting whom.

Libyan social media websites said the airport had been closed.

British Airlines and Turkish Airways cancelled their flights, while thick smoke could be seen near the airport, residents said.

A senior airport official declined to comment.

Social media websites said several rockets had hit the airport perimeter. Pictures posted on Facebook showed thick smoke at what was said to be the parking area in front of the main terminal.

The airport area, some 30km (18 miles) south of Tripoli, has been controlled by militia fighters from Zintan in northwestern Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Gadafy in 2011, although other groups have challenged them.

Libyan television channel al-Nabaa said a militia called Stability and Security Force had entered the airport area. No more details were immediately available.

Libya has been in turmoil as government and parliament have been unable to control militias who helped oust Gadafy in 2011 but now defy state authority.

Libya’s nascent army and police are no match for militias battle-hardened from the eight-month 2011 uprising.

Reuters