Ri­val forces say they have seized Tripoli air­port

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY RAMI MUSA As­so­ci­ated Press

Forces loyal to ri­val Libyan army com­man­der Khal­ifa Hifter said Satur­day they seized con­trol of the main air­port in Libya’s cap­i­tal Tripoli, two days af­ter Hifter or­dered his forces to seize the seat of Libya’s U.N.-backed gov­ern­ment.

Hifter’s me­dia of­fice said in a post on­line that they took full con­trol of the Tripoli in­ter­na­tional air­port and were work­ing to se­cure the fa­cil­ity. They posted pho­tos of troops ap­par­ently in­side the air­port, say­ing “we are stand­ing at the heart of the Tripoli in­ter­na­tional air­port.”

Hifter’s offensive on Tripoli could plunge the oil-rich coun­try into another spasm of vi­o­lence, pos­si­bly the worst since the 2011 civil war that top­pled and later killed long­time dic­ta­tor Moam­mar Gad­hafi.

The coun­try is gov­erned by ri­val au­thor­i­ties: The in­ter­na­tion­ally backed gov­ern­ment in Tripoli and the gov­ern­ment in the east, which Hifter is aligned with. Each are backed by an ar­ray of mili­tias.

There was no im­me­di­ate state­ment from the U.N.-backed gov­ern­ment, the mili­tias that sup­port it, or the U.N.

The Tripoli air­port has not been func­tional since fight­ing in 2014 destroyed much of the fa­cil­ity.

The me­dia of­fice said that troops also cap­tured the area of Wadi el-Rabeia, south of Tripoli, amid clashed with ri­val mili­tias back­ing the gov­ern­ment of Fayez Sar­raj in Tripoli.

Ahmed al-Mes­mari, spokesman for the self­styled Libyan Na­tional Army lead by Hifter, said 14 troops were killed since Hifter de­clared the offensive.

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