Tripoli airport seized by Libyan Islamist militants
An armed alliance of militants has taken control of Libya’s Tripoli airport. The group, known as the Libyan Central Shield (LCS), seized control of the airport from opposing militia after nearly a month of destructive battle that saw over 100 killed and millions of dollars’ worth of damage to the airport.
An-Nabaa television, a Libyan station with strong ties to Islamist groups, reported on Saturday: “Fajr Libya announces that it totally controls Tripoli international airport.”
The statement was referred to the “Libya Dawn” brigade which fights within the umbrella of LCS.
The Islamist LCS – largely comprised of militants from the Misrata area – has been active since the fall of colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The airport is Libya’s largest and has been closed since 13th July due to continuous fighting. Located 30km from the capital city, it is a major strategic point and its seizure by Islamist forces serves as a huge setback to the anti-Islamist Zintan militia, who previously had control over the airport for last three years. The Zintan group is loosely led by general Khalifa Haftar and is predominantly active in the west of the country.
Libya’s House of Representatives, now based in the small city of Tobruk due to ongoing conflicts in major urban areas around the country, has condemned the airports’ takeover and labelled the LCS as a “terrorist organisation”.
A spokesman for the Mistran-led militia group has called for the reconvening of the nation’s previous pro-Islamist parliament.
The attack on the international airport followed a blow to the LCS forces the previous night, where an unidentified jet fighter killed ten Libya Dawn fighters, a spokesman of LCS Mohamed Al-Ghariani has confirmed.
The capture took place alongside the eruption of further conflict between Haftar’s forces and Islamist militia in other areas, including the coastal city of Benghazi.
Thomas Rhys Jones