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Fresh militia clashes at Libya airport

Smoke billows during clashes between security forces and armed groups near a Libyan army special forces barracks, on July 23, 2014, in the eastern city of Benghazi. AFP PHOTO / ABDULLAH DOMA

TRIPOLI: Fresh clashes broke out Friday between rival Libyan militias battling for control of Tripoli airport, the target of 13 days of shelling that have disrupted air links.

Columns of smoke billowed into the sky around the airport perimeter, while loud explosions were heard throughout the morning, an AFP correspondent reported.

Libya’s international airport has been shut since fighting erupted July 13, a bout of violence that has killed at least 47 people and wounded 120, according to the Health Ministry.

The clashes, the most violent since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, started with an assault on the airport by a coalition of groups, mainly Islamists, which has since been backed by fighters from third city Misrata.

The attackers are battling to flush out fellow former rebels from the hill town of Zintan who have controlled the airport for the past three years.

Armed men abducted a well-known Libyan political activist Abdel-Moaz Banoun in the country’s capital, his father said Friday, the latest in rampant attacks that have targeted officials, activists and foreigners in the strife-torn nation.

Abdullah Banoun told AP his son was taken by two men who attacked his car Thursday. No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, but the father blamed the militias.

Banoun has been a critic of the militias and has urged that they be disbanded. He has advocated the establishment of a unified police and army.

An umbrella group for Islamist militias, called the Operation Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, said in a brief statement on its Facebook page Friday that “troops arrested Abdel-Moaz over allegations that he served under Gadhafi” and “instigated rallies against” the Islamic militias.

Libyan rebels also have kidnapped a Maltese worker on the outskirts of Tripoli, Malta’s foreign office said.

“I can confirm that we have been informed about the abduction. That is all I can say for now,” a spokesman for the foreign office in Valletta said.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry announced Friday that operations at its Tripoli embassy will be suspended due to worsening security in Libya, a day after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the embassy in the capital could be evacuated.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 26, 2014, on page 9.

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Summary

Fresh clashes broke out Friday between rival Libyan militias battling for control of Tripoli airport, the target of 13 days of shelling that have disrupted air links.

Libya's international airport has been shut since fighting erupted July 13, a bout of violence that has killed at least 47 people and wounded 120, according to the Health Ministry.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry announced Friday that operations at its Tripoli embassy will be suspended due to worsening security in Libya, a day after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the embassy in the capital could be evacuated.


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