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By Heba al-Shibani and Ahmed Elumami
TRIPOLI Aug 24 Fire destroyed the terminal at
Tripoli's main airport on Sunday, one day after it was seized by
militia fighters from the Libyan city of Misrata, witnesses
Unidentified war planes also attacked targets in the
capital, residents said, the latest stage of the worst fighting
in Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Tripoli residents heard jets followed by explosions at dawn
but more details were not immediately available.
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.
A militia called Operation Dawn, consisting mainly of
fighters from Misrata, said on Saturday that it had captured the
airport from a rival faction from Zintan in western Libya.
However, it was deserted on Sunday with Misrata forces
deployed on the airport road and no sign of Zintani fighters.
In the campaign to overthrow Gaddafi, 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, with
the weak government unable to control armed factions.
The central government lacks a functioning national army and
relies on militias for public security. While these forces
receive state salaries and wear uniforms, they report in
practice to their own commanders and towns.
Renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who has declared war on
Islamist-leaning militias, claimed responsibility for air raids
on Tripoli on Saturday and last Monday that targetted Operation
Libya now faces the prospect of two competing parliaments.
In a challenge to a parliament elected on June 25, an
Operation Dawn spokesman called for the old General National
Congress, set up after the fall of Gaddafi, to be reinstated.
The Misrata forces have rejected the new House of
Representatives, where liberals and lawmakers campaigning for a
federalist system have made a strong showing.
The parliament has declared Operation Dawn as well as
militant Islamists like the Ansar al-Sharia as "terrorist
Muslim Brotherhood party member Amina al-Mahjoub, a former
national congress member, told Reuters the congress would
reconvene on Monday morning.
"It is not clear if the meeting will be consultative or we
grant legitimacy to the rebels," he said.
The House of Representatives, which has fled to Tobruk in
the east with senior officials to escape the fighting, had asked
Haftar to fight the Operation Dawn forces.
Haftar launched a campaign against Islamists in the eastern
city of Benghazi in May and threw his weight behind the Zintan
Misrata forces have blamed the air strikes on Egypt and the
United Arab Emirates, two countries which have cracked down on
Islamists. Libya's government says it does not know who is
behind the attacks. Egypt denies conducting any air strikes or
other military operations in Libya.
(Reporting by Heba al-Shibani, Ahmed Ellumami, Feras Bosalum,
Ayman al-Warfalli and Ulf Laessing, Editing by Angus MacSwan)