After clashes, rush after some Tripoli flights resume

TRIPOLI, July 19 Sat Jul 19, 2014 12:29pm EDT

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TRIPOLI, July 19 (Reuters) - Flights have resumed from two small airports in Libya triggering a rush of Libyans and expatriates trying to leave the country on Saturday after fighting closed the main international airport a week earlier.

Local carriers have resumed flights to neighbouring countries from Tripoli's Mitiga airport, which is mainly used by the military and oil firms, and another airport 210 km (130 miles) to the west in Misrata.

Flights out of Libya almost completely halted from Sunday when rival militias turned Tripoli International Airport into a battlefield with rockets hitting the runway, at least 20 planes and the main terminal building. A few airlines continued to fly from tiny airports in the east.

Tripoli International Airport remained closed on Saturday, but flights took off from Mitiga bound for Egypt, Jordan and Tunis.

More than hundred people packed the departure hall, trying to check in or to buy a ticket that could be bought on the spot in cash, airport officials and residents said.

The airport standoff is one of most serious between rival militias in the three years since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya's weak government has proved unable to control brigades of former rebel fighters who often battle for political and economic power. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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