File - Destroyed vehicles are seen after fighting between Libyan special forces and ex-rebel fighters of the Benghazi Shura Council in the eastern city of Benghazi July 30, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer
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Booms of outgoing artillery shaking the ground, militia fighters from the remote Libyan mountain town of Zintan hunker down in the passenger terminal to defend Tripoli airport, the biggest prize in the capital.Across the city a few kilometers away, a commander of a brigade from the port city of Misrata rallies his men to take the airport back. Three years ago, Zintani and Misratan rebel brigades descended simultaneously on Tripoli from east and west to storm the palaces of Moammar Gadhafi. Now, fighters from the two towns are waging open war in the capital. The war for Tripoli's airport is not even the only war being fought in Libya.For the past three years, the central government has largely failed to build a national army, instead buying the loyalty of armed groups by putting individual fighters or whole militia units onto the payroll.Misrata, a thriving port of nearly 300,000 with a mercantile tradition, was the biggest city in the west to hold out against Gadhafi's forces, keeping the revolution's hopes alive under intense bombardment during a months-long siege, before its forces battled their way to the capital.Ahmed Hadia, spokesman for the Misrata Central Shield Brigade, said his group joined the battle only after Zintan's Qaaqaa and Sawaiq Brigades were accused of trying to stage a coup and the government was not strong enough to respond.
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