Forces from the Libyan city of Misrata have seized Tripoli's
main airport after more than a month of fighting with a rival
group, a Misrata spokesman said.
Pictures on social media purportedly showed Misrata fighters
celebrating at the terminal building in what, if confirmed,
would be a big development in the battle to control the
War planes had earlier struck Misrata positions in Tripoli in
an attack claimed by renegade general Khalifa Haftar. The
raids had killed 10 people and wounded dozens, the Misrata
The fighting is the worst since the overthrow of Muammar
Gaddafi in 2011..
In the NATO-backed campaign to oust Gaddafi, fighters from
the western region of Zintan and Misrata, east of Tripoli,
were comrades-in-arms. But they later fell out and this year
have turned parts of Tripoli into a battlefield.
Haftar launched a campaign against Islamists in the eastern
city of Benghazi in May and threw his weight behind the
On Saturday's fighting, residents heard explosions early in
the morning near the airport, where the two groups have been
fighting for control for more than a month.
Local television channel al-Nabaa said planes had attacked
four Misrata positions. A Misrata spokesman said the planes
had come from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, two
countries which have cracked down on Islamists.
But Haftar's air defence commander, Sager al-Jouroushi, told
Reuters that his forces were responsible for the attack.
Haftar's forces also claimed responsibility for air raids on
Misrata positions in Tripoli on Monday.
Western countries and Egypt, worried about Libya becoming a
failed state and safe haven for Islamist militants, have
denied any involvement. The Libyan ngovernment has said it
does not know who is responsible for the air attacks.
Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani called on Egypt and Tunisia
to open their airspace again for flights to western Libya.
Both countries had cancelled most flights to Libya for
security reasons after the air strikes, cutting off a vital
link to the outside for Libyans and foreigners fleeing
Libya has used the small Matiga airport in Tripoli for
civilian traffic since the main airport was turned into a
battlefield last month. The tower, runway and at least 20
aircraft have been damaged, officials have said.
When flying into Matiga, passengers can sometimes see smoke
rising from battles in and around the main airport.
The violence has prompted the United Nations and foreign
embassies in Libya to evacuate their staff and citizens, and
foreign airlines largely stopped flying to Libya.
Tripoli has largely slipped out of control of the government,
with senior officials working from Tobruk in the east, where
the new parliament has based itself to escape the violence in
Tripoli and Benghazi.
Libya's central government lacks a functioning national army
and relies on militia for public security. But while these
get state salaries and wear uniforms, they report in practice
to their own commanders and towns.