War planes attack Libyan capital again, airport terminal is destroyed

Renegade general Khalifa Haftar has declared war on Misrata forces, and his forces claimed responsibility for air raids on Tripoli earlier targeting a group called Operation Dawn

War planes attack Libyan capital again, airport terminal is destroyed

World Bulletin/News Desk

Fire destroyed the terminal at Tripoli's main airport on Sunday, one day after it was seized by militia fighters from the Libyan city of Misrata, witnesses said.

Unidentified war planes also attacked targets in the capital, residents said, the latest stage of the worst fighting in Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Tripoli residents heard jets followed by explosions at dawn but more details were not immediately available.

It was unclear who had burned the terminal and supporters of the rival factions took to social media to accused each other.

The main building was completely torched, witnesses said. All planes in front of it were damaged, as well as many houses and office buildings on airport road.

A militia called Operation Dawn, consisting mainly of fighters from Misrata, said on Saturday that it had captured the airport from a rival faction from Zintan in western Libya.

However, it was deserted on Sunday with Misrata forces deployed on the airport road and no sign of Zintani fighters.

In the campaign to overthrow Gaddafi, fighters from Zintan and Misrata were comrades-in-arms. But they later fell out and this year have turned parts of Tripoli into a battlefield, with the weak government unable to control armed factions.

The central government lacks a functioning national army and relies on militias for public security. While these forces receive state salaries and wear uniforms, they report in practice to their own commanders and towns.

Renegade general Khalifa Haftar claimed responsibility for air raids on Tripoli on Saturday and last Monday that targetted Operation Dawn.

GROWING DIVISIONS

Libya faces the prospect of two competing parliaments, after the claimed Misrata victory at Tripoli airport which Reuters could not immediately confirm.

In a challenge to the parliament elected on June 25, a spokesman for Operation Dawn called for the old General National Congress (GNC) to be reinstated. Misrata forces have rejected the new House of Representatives, where liberals and lawmakers campaigning for a federalist system have made a strong showing.

In a sign of deep divisions between Libya's regions and political factions the House of Representative declared the Operation Dawn as well as militant like the Ansar al-Sharia as "terrorist groups".

The House of Representatives, which has fled to Tobruk in the east with senior officials to escape fighting, asked renegade general Haftar to fight the Operation Dawn forces.

Haftar launched a campaign in the eastern city of Benghazi in May and threw his weight behind the Zintan fighters.

His air defence commander, Sager al-Jouroushi, told Reuters on Saturday that his forces were responsible for the air strikes on Saturday and a similar attack on Monday.

Misrata forces have blamed the air strikes on Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, Egypt rejected the accusation. Libya's government says it does not know who is behind the attacks.

Western and NATO officials have also denied any involvement.

"This is a war between the Libyan state and the state institutions led by our sons, soldiers and officers in the army, against terrorist groups outside of the law," the House of Representatives said in a statement.

Fighting also erupted between Haftar's troops and allied army special forces with Misrata rebels in two Benghazi suburbs on Saturday, killing eight soldiers and wounding 35, medics said.

The violence has prompted the United Nations and foreign embassies in Libya to evacuate their staff and citizens, and foreign airlines have largely stopped flying to Libya.

Libya's central government lacks a functioning national army and relies on militia for public security. But while these forces receive state salaries and wear uniforms, they report in practice to their own commanders and towns.

Last Mod: 24 Ağustos 2014, 22:57
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