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By Feras Bosalum
TRIPOLI, July 17 Air controllers in western
Libya have gone on strike to protest the shelling of Tripoli's
main airport, halting flights in much of the oil-producing
country, a government official said on Thursday.
The strike puts pressure on rival militias to end four days
of heavy fighting over control of the country's biggest airport,
during which at least 20 aircraft have been damaged in the worst
violence in the Libyan capital for six months.
The Tripoli air controllers refused to go to work at the
control tower in Tripoli, which regulates traffic for all of
western Libya, said Tarek Arwa, a spokesman for the transport
Authorities had closed Tripoli International Airport after
militias coming mainly from the western city of Misrata attacked
on Sunday the airport area controlled by a rival militia from
Zintan in the northwest, part of growing turmoil in the North
On Wednesday, Libya reopened the western Misrata airport,
which also had been closed after the airport attack, but it will
have to close again due to the strike because Tripoli air
controllers are also responsible for Misrata, Arwa said.
The weak Libyan government has no control over former rebel
fighters who helped topple dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a
NATO-backed uprising but now defy state authority and often
battle for political or economic power.
The airport fighting has halted flights, stranding abroad
many Libyans who were planning to return home for the Muslim
fasting month of Ramadan and trapping expatriates. The heavy
fighting in Tripoli and clashes in the eastern city of Benghazi
prompted the United Nations to pull its staff out of the North
(Reporting by Feras Bosalum; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing
by Ken Wills and Lisa Shumaker)