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Islamists 'seize Tripoli airport'

August 24, 2014

Islamists fighting nationalist militiamen claim to have captured Libya's beleaguered Tripoli international airport. The alleged capture comes after intense fighting between the two sides.

Image: MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images

Fighters from the Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) coalition said Saturday that they captured the airport after many days of clashes with nationalist militiamen.

A statement shown on screen on An-Nabaa television, regarded as close to the Islamists, said: "Fajr Libya announces that it totally controls Tripoli international airport."

The battle for the airport has sparked the worst violence in the Libyan capital since the overthrow of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Last month foreign governments initiated evacuations of their citizens from the country due to the fighting.

The airport, which lies 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of the Libyan capital, has been shut since July 13 amid clashes between the Islamists and the nationalist force from Zintan, who are allies of rogue general Khalifa Haftar.

In May, Haftar launched a campaign against Islamists in the eastern city of Benghazi and has since backed the Zintan fighters.

Islamists blame Egypt, UAE

The claim of control comes one day after a warplane raided Islamist positions, killing at least 13 fighters.

On Saturday, Fajr Libya accused the United Arab Emirates and Egypt of involvement in the Friday night air raid as well as an earlier strike when two unidentified aircraft bombarded Islamist positions earlier in the week.

"The Emirates and Egypt are involved in this cowardly aggression," the coalition said in a statement read out to Libyan journalists in Tripoli.

hc/av (AFP, Reuters)