Libya Islamist militias 'seize Tripoli airport'
Mohamed Hasni, AFP
August 24, 2014, 2:05 pm TWN
The claim followed a setback the previous night when a warplane raided Islamist positions, killing 13 fighters, a Fajr Libya spokesman said.
If independent sources confirm the airport has changed hands, it would be a major defeat for the nationalist fighters from Zintan west of Tripoli who have held the airport since the fall of long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
A statement shown on screen on An-Nabaa television, regarded as close to the Islamists, said: "Fajr Libya announces that it totally controls Tripoli international airport."
Later a spokesman for the Islamist coalition, partly comprising men from Misrata, east of Tripoli, said its fighters "have entered the airport and are mopping up pockets of resistance".
On the political front, Libya's outgoing provisional General National Congress (GNC), which was dominated by Islamists, will resume operations despite being superseded by an elected national parliament, its spokesman said on Saturday.
The strategic airport 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the Libyan capital, has been shut since July 13 amid clashes between the Islamists and the Zintan force, allies of rogue general Khalifa Haftar, based at Benghazi in eastern Libya and hostile to the Islamists.
The Islamist coalition, which repeatedly claims successes against the nationalists, on Thursday organised a visit by Libyan journalists to an army base on the way to the airport, to prove they had taken it.
Congress to meet again
Fajr Libya on Saturday accused the United Arab Emirates and Egypt of involvement in the Friday night air raid and an earlier strike when two unidentified aircraft bombarded Islamist positions on Monday night.
"The Emirates and Egypt are involved in this cowardly aggression," the coalition said in a statement read out to Libyan journalists in Tripoli.
In the wake of the raids, the GNC will convene again despite being a national parliament being elected in June, its spokesman said.