Heavy fighting broke out between rival militias vying for control of Libya’s main airport yesterday, killing at least seven people and forcing a halt of all flights in the worst violence in the capital for six months.
Explosions and anti-aircraft gunfire were heard from early morning on the airport road and other parts of Tripoli.
Residents said militiamen from the north-western region of Zintan who had controlled the airport came under fire from rebels out of the western city of Misratis.
The fighting is part of growing turmoil in the North African oil producer, where the government is unable to control battle-hardened militias that helped to overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but continue to defy state authority.
Many Libyans are weary of militias whose members theoretically work for the government but who in reality appear to do as they please, fighting each other or seizing oilfields and ministries as they press their own financial and political demands on authorities.
Zintan and Misratis forces had been put on the state payroll in an unsuccessful attempt by the government to secure their co-operation and try to bolster the rule of law.
Seven people were killed and 36 wounded in the clashes, the Health Ministry said.
The violence comes as the country awaits the results of the 25 June parliamentary elections. Officials and Libya’s partners had hoped the vote would give a push to nation building and ease political tensions.