Warlord battles government for control of Tripoli airport
MISURATA, Libya — A renegade militia seeking to storm its way into Libya’s capital battled for control of the international airport Saturday in a showdown that threatened to spill into bloody urban combat in the streets of Tripoli.
Fighters loyal to warlord Khalifa Hifter said they had overrun the airport on the southern edge of the city. But forces for Libya’s U.N.backed government mounted a counterattack — aided by reinforcements flowing into the city — and it remained unclear which side held the airfield by nightfall.
The airport has been closed since it suffered widespread damage during battles between rival groups in 2014. But it would be a symbolic blow to the government if the site fell to Hifter, who could use it as a key staging ground for further advances.
Hifter’s militia is aligned with a separate administration based in eastern Libya. The country, rich in oil and gas reserves, has been split into rival regions for years as the United Nations and others try to hammer out a peace deal and set a road map for elections.
Hifter’s offensive could usher in the most significant escalation of violence since the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. Hifter was a general in Gaddafi’s army but defected and spent years living in northern Virginia. He returned to Libya to take part in the revolution against Gaddafi’s rule.
Hundreds of truckloads of fighters from different militias left the city of Misurata on Saturday, heading to Tripoli to help fend off Hifter’s forces, said militia sources and residents of Misurata, about 120 miles east of the capital. In Germany: Former President Barack Obama says he wants to support young leaders in Europe and elsewhere who are trying to tackle problems such as climate change and inequality.
Obama told a town hall meeting Saturday in Berlin that mentoring activists through his foundation may help encourage “millions of people who are working on the values and causes that we so deeply believe in.” He said despite Europe’s wealth, social achievements and decades of peace, “we also know that powerful forces are working to reverse many of these trends.”
The former president suggested that fostering reasoned debate online should be a key task to keep politics from going in a negative direction.
to Greek police after clashes Saturday outside a refugee camp in Diavata, a Thessaloniki suburb. Officials say the demonstrations were triggered by false reports on social media that restrictions on travel to northern Europe had been lifted.