Smoke rises after a shelling at Tripoli International
Airport. Photo by Reuters
Several shells hit the terminal of Libya's main airport
as rival militias fought in Tripoli for a fifth day, and gunmen
assassinated a female politician in the east.
In another sign of growing turmoil, air controllers halted
work in Tripoli, shutting off much of the oil-producing
country from international traffic.
Tripoli International Airport has been a battlefield since
fighters attacked it with heavy guns on Sunday to wrest
control from a rival militia which has been based there since
the fall of Libya's late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The conflict is fuelling worries that Libya is on the point
of turning into a failed state where a weak central
government is powerless to control the militias which helped
The airport fighting pits brigades from Misrata, a western
coastal town, against rival fighters from Zintan in the
northwest. Their rivalry exemplifies the divisions between
tribes and cities in a country where few efficient state
institutions exist after over four decades of one-man rule.
On Thursday, several shells hit the airport terminal where
the Zintanis are holding out, striking the main building for
the first time, witnesses said.
A Reuters reporter at the airport saw holes in the roof and
smashed windows at the terminal building and in airline
offices, including one belonging to British Airways, with a
shell lying on the floor.
Air controllers refused to go to work at the control tower in
Tripoli, which regulates traffic for all of western Libya, a
spokesman for the transport ministry said.
On Wednesday, Libya reopened the western Misrata airport,
which had been closed with Tripoli after the weekend attack,
but it will have to shut again because Tripoli air
controllers are also responsible for Misrata.
Many Libyans who had been planning to come home for the
Muslim fasting month of Ramadan have been trapped abroad.
Expatriates trying to leave the country have been travelling
by taxi to Tunisia, in scenes reminiscent of the 2011
In the eastern Islamist hotspot of Derna, gunmen shot dead
Fariha al-Barkawi, a former member of parliament, officials
said. She is the second prominent woman to be assassinated,
following the killing of Benghazi human rights activist Salwa
Bugaighis last month.
Western powers fear chaos in Libya will allow arms and
militants to flow across its borders. The south of the vast
desert country has become a haven for Islamist militants
kicked out of Mali by French forces earlier this year.