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Tripoli airport closed after militia attacks

Fierce fighting closed Tripoli international airport on Saturday night as rival militias battled for control of the facility in the latest upsurge of violence in Libya’s volatile capital.

world Updated: Dec 12, 2011 01:22 IST

Fierce fighting closed Tripoli international airport on Saturday night as rival militias battled for control of the facility in the latest upsurge of violence in Libya’s volatile capital.

Hours after Libya’s president, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, made a plea for all sides to work for reconciliation, unidentified militia attacked the airport garrison.

Television footage showed exchanges of fire at the perimeter of the airport, which is held by militia from the town of Zintan, 90 miles south of the capital, under the control of defence minister Osama Jweli.

A camera crew from al-Jazeera reported they were assaulted by gunmen close to the scene of the fighting. Hours later Tripoli airport was shut and Libya closed airspace over the capital amid fears that three pickup trucks mounting anti-aircraft guns, stolen by militia fighters, could be used to target incoming airliners.

In a separate incident, the commander-in-chief of the Libyan national army, Major General Khalifa Belgasim Haftar, was ambushed by gunmen who set up a checkpoint in the capital and attacked his convoy.

Haftar’s spokesman said the general’s jeep managed to escape and two militiamen were later arrested.The fighting underlines the instability of the Libyan capital.

Guardian News Service