Deadly clashes in Libyan capital force airport to close


An armed group on Monday attacked Tripoli International Airport of Libya with heavy weapons, killing three people and injuring several others.

Earlier Monday, a security source from Libya's Tripoli-based, United Nations -backed unity government said government forces had clashed with rival forces loyal to the so-called "salvation government" after the latter had attempted to capture the airport.

The ensuing power vacuum swiftly led to the emergence of several rival seats of government, including one in the city of Tobruk and two others in capital Tripoli (including the United Nations -backed unity government), along with a plethora of heavily-armed militia groups.

The fighting pitted the Special Deterrence Force (Rada), one of Tripoli's most powerful groups, against a rival faction based in the Tajoura neighbourhood. It is aligned with the GNA and is occasionally targeted by rivals whose members it has arrested.

About two planes for Afriqiyah Airways were damaged considerably by the clashes at the airport, while reports from the security of the airport said over 9 planes were moved to the Tripoli International Airport for safety reasons.

"This assault was aimed at freeing terrorists from Daesh (Islamic State) and al-Qaida and other organizations", it said in a statement.

It said it would give the number of wounded in a later statement.

Following the incident, the flights to and from Tripoli were halted and redirected to the International Misurata airport in the city of Misrata, according to the media outlet. On its Facebook page, the force says the prison houses 2,500 detainees.

The force posted images of tanks deployed around the airport.

Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 civil war that resulted in the overturn of country's longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi. There have been rival governments in Tripoli and the east since 2014, when most diplomatic missions evacuated to neighbouring Tunisia.

The United Nations is trying to pave the way for elections in Libya by the end of the year, which it hopes can help stabilise the oil-producing nation.