Libya crisis: Hifter’s forces ‘seize Tripoli airport’

Forces loyal to rival Libyan army commander say they have taken control

Military vehicles of Misrata forces, under the protection of Tripoli’s forces, are seen in Tajura neighborhood, east of Tripoli, Libya. Photograph: Hani Amara/Reuters

Military vehicles of Misrata forces, under the protection of Tripoli’s forces, are seen in Tajura neighborhood, east of Tripoli, Libya. Photograph: Hani Amara/Reuters

 

Forces loyal to rival Libyan army commander Khalifa Hifter say they have seized control of the main airport in the capital Tripoli, two days after he ordered his forces to seize the seat of the country’s UN-backed government.

Hifter’s media office said in a post online that his forces took full control of Tripoli international airport and are working to secure the facility.

They posted photos of troops apparently inside the airport, saying “we are standing at the heart of the Tripoli international airport”.

The airport has not been functional since fighting in 2014 destroyed much of the facility.

Hifter’s offensive on Tripoli could plunge the oil-rich country into another spasm of violence, possibly the worst since the 2011 civil war that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Rival authorities

The country is governed by rival authorities — the internationally-backed government in Tripoli and the government in the east, which Hifter is aligned with. Each are backed by an array of militias.

Hifter’s media office also said troops captured the area of Wadi el-Rabeia, south of Tripoli, amid clashes with rival militias backing the government of Fayez Sarraj in Tripoli.

Hifter, leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army, announced on Thursday he was deploying his forces towards Tripoli, sparking fears the tensions could be escalating out of control as militias from the western cities of Zawiya and Misarata said they have mobilised to confront him.

He also put at risk upcoming peace talks between Libyan rivals brokered by the UN aimed at drawing a road-map for new elections.

The UN Security Council earlier on Saturday called on Hifter’s forces to halt all military movements and urged all forces in Libya “to de-escalate and halt military activity”. – AP