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Libya mulls international help as deadly clashes close airport

© Afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-15

Libya's government said Tuesday that it was considering requesting international help to re-establish security after days of deadly clashes between rival militias forced the closure of Tripoli airport, severing links with the outside world.

Militia shells have destroyed 90 percent of the planes parked at the airport, according to government spokesman Ahmed Lamine. The Grad rocket attacks have also reportedly damaged the control tower.

Lamine said Tripoli is considering requesting international help to restore stability in the country.

"The government has studied the possibility to bring international forces to enhance security," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Tripoli international airport was shut down after the secular Zintan militia that controls it came under attack by Islamist militias on Sunday. The rival militias are locked in a brutal power struggle.

The locked-down airport came under renewed attack late Monday when dozens of rockets were fired into the compound, killing a security guard and injuring six others, officials said.

Shortly after the attack the government released a statement saying it was "looking into the possibility of making an appeal for international forces on the ground to re-establish security and help the government impose its authority".

The statement added that the forces would help protect civilians, prevent anarchy and allow the government to build up the army and police.

Later on Monday the United Nations announced it was evacuating its remaining staff from Libya because of the deteriorating security situation.

"After the latest fighting on Sunday and because of the closure of Tripoli international airport, the mission concluded that it would not be possible to continue its work ... while at the same time ensuring the security and safety of its staff," it said.

Libya also suspended all flights Monday to and from the city of Misrata, west of the capital, which is dependent on Tripoli airport for its operations.

"Libya is now practically cut off from the outside world," a source at the airport said.

Country torn by rival militias

Fighting between militias has intensified since a general election in June. Over the past few weeks Libya has been locked in a crisis where two rival cabinets are jostling for power while violence rages in the east.

The country is in desperate need of a functioning government and a parliament to impose authority over the heavily armed former rebels, militias and tribes that helped to oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, but who now refuse to disarm and cede control to the central government.

The militias have carved out fiefdoms and have been blamed for several kidnappings and a spate of attacks on Libyan officials.

Gunmen killed Libya’s Deputy Industry Minister Hassan al-Drowi in the coastal city of Sirte in January.

Five Egyptian diplomats were kidnapped that same month, three of whom were later freed.

Libyan premier Abdullah al-Thinni resigned in April after armed men staged an attack on his family. No one was injured in that attack, which a spokesman described as "a near-miss".

Gunmen stormed the parliament building later that month as legislators met to vote on Thinni's successor, injuring several people.

An employee and a diplomat of the Tunisian embassy in Libya were also abducted in Tripoli on March 21 and April 17, respectively. According to Tunis, their captors demanded the release of two Libyans held for "terrorism" in Tunisia.

Human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis was shot dead in June by unknown assailants at her home in the restive east Libyan city of Benghazi.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

 

Date created : 2014-07-15

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