Libya weighs international help after surge in violence

July 15, 2014 6:44 am


The wreckage of a truck and an airplane are seen at Tripoli international airport in the Libyan capital on July 14, 2014/AFP
The wreckage of a truck and an airplane are seen at Tripoli international airport in the Libyan capital on July 14, 2014/AFP
TRIPOLI, Libya, July 15 – Libya’s government said Tuesday it was considering calling for international forces to help re-establish security after deadly clashes closed Tripoli airport, severing air links with the outside world.

Fighting between liberal and Islamist militias locked in a brutal power struggle forced the closure of the country’s main international airport, leaving the North African state feeling increasingly isolated.

On Monday, the United Nations announced it was evacuating its remaining staff from Libya because of the deteriorating security situation.

The locked-down airport came under renewed attack late Monday when dozens of rockets – including one that hit a plane – were fired, killing a security guard and injuring six others, officials said.

Al-Jilani al-Dahech, a security official at Tripoli airport, told AFP that the control tower was hit along with a plane belonging to private Libyan carrier Buraq Airlines.

Shortly after the attack the government released a statement saying it was “looking into the possibility of making an appeal for international forces on the ground to re-establish security and help the government impose its authority”.

The statement from a spokesman added that the forces would help protect civilians, prevent anarchy and allow the government to build up the army and police.

International air power helped overthrow dictator Muammar Gadhafi in 2011, sparking a power struggle between rival armed groups that has wracked the oil producing state.

Fighting between militias has intensified since a general election in June and the UN said it was withdrawing its remaining staff.

“UNSMIL (United Nations Support Mission in Libya) temporarily withdrawing staff from Libya because of security situation,” the mission, which already pulled out dozens of personnel last week, said in a statement.

“After the latest fighting on Sunday and because of the closure of Tripoli international airport, the mission concluded that it would not be possible to continue its work… while at the same time ensuring the security and safety of its staff,” it said.

“This is a temporary measure. Staff will return as soon as security conditions permit. The United Nations, which stood by the Libyan people in their revolution in 2011, will not abandon them as they seek to build a democratic state.”

Witnesses said a UN convoy left Tripoli on Sunday by road headed for the Tunisian border, 170 kilometres (110 miles) to the west.

Tripoli international airport was shut down for at least three days after the Zintan militia which controls it came under attack by Islamist fighters on Sunday.

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