Unidentified war planes attack Libyan capital

Libya’s Islamist militias said Sunday they have consolidated their hold on Tripoli and its international airport

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As fire destroyed the terminal at Tripoli’s main airport on Sunday, unidentified war planes also attacked targets in the capital, Reuters reported residents as saying.

Tripoli residents heard jets followed by explosions at dawn but more details were not immediately available.

On Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi denied that his country’s air force was involved in striking Islamist militias in Libya, in an interview with a local newspaper.

“There were no Egyptian war planes in Libya, and no Egyptian plane has executed any military operation inside Libya,” he said.

Who burned the airport?

It was unclear who had burned the terminal and supporters of the rival factions took to social media to accused each other.

The main building was completely torched, witnesses said. All planes in front of it were damaged, as well as many houses and office buildings on airport road.

Meanwhile, Libya’s Islamist militias said Sunday they have consolidated their hold on Tripoli and its international airport, driving out rival militias to the outskirts of the capital following a weeks-long battle for control of the strategic hub, the Associated Press reported.

The umbrella group for Islamist militias calling itself Dawn of Libya said it has also taken hold of other locations in the capital controlled by the rival militias, drawing to a close one chapter in a prolonged confrontation between the Islamist-allied militia, largely from the city of Misrata, and the powerful militia from the western mountains of Zintan.

The fight has largely destroyed the airport and scarred the capital, prompting diplomats, foreign nationals and thousands of Libyans to flee.

The Islamist militias have been branded as “terrorists” by the country’s elected parliament.

The Libyan capital's airport has been targeted by unidentified warplanes earlier on Sunday, hours after Islamist militias from the city of Misrata said they had seized the main airport.

Infographic: Libya crisis: Tensions rise as Tripoli airport seized
Infographic: Libya crisis: Tensions rise as Tripoli airport seized

In recent weeks Libya has seen the worst fighting since the NATO-backed campaign to oust Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Renegade general Khalifa Haftar has declared war on Islamist-leaning forces, part of growing anarchy in the oil producer.

His forces claimed responsibility for air raids on Tripoli on Saturday and last Monday, targeting a group called Operation Dawn.

But this group, known as Fajr Libya, said on Saturday that it had captured Tripoli's main airport from a rival faction from Zintan in western Libya.

In the campaign to overthrow Qaddafi, fighters from Zintan and Misrata were comrades-in-arms. But they later fell out and this year have turned parts of Tripoli into a battlefield.

The news prompted the country’s elected parliament to brand the Islamist militias as “terrorists.”

"The groups acting under the names of Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) and Ansar al-Sharia are terrorist groups and outlaws that are rising up against the legitimate powers," the parliament said in a statement issued on Saturday night.

The parliament said it was determined to deal with the challenge through its armed forces.

Early on Sunday, Islamist militiamen attacked the Tripoli studios of private television station Al-Assima which supports the Zintan nationalists and kidnapped its crew, the station said.

Al-Assima, in a news bulletin, said equipment was destroyed and the crew went missing.

Libya's neighbours and Western power worry Libya will turn into a failed state as the weak government is unable to control armed factions.

(With Associated Press, AFP and Reuters)