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Planes destroyed as rockets hit Libya airport

Government says 90 percent of planes at capital Tripoli's airport destroyed by Grad rockets as fighting continues.

Last updated: 15 Jul 2014 08:23
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Several rockets have reportedly hit the airport in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, where fighting between rival armed groups has been raging since Sunday.

Several Grad rocket struck the airport late on Monday, destroying 90 percent of the planes parked there, government spokesman Ahmed Lamine said.

"The government has studied the possibility to bring international forces to enhance security," he said.

The rockets damaged the airport's control tower and two people were killed in the attack, the Reuters news agency reported.

Authorities had closed the airport due to previous fighting on Sunday, which medics say killed at least seven people .

Rival militias have clashed for control of the airport. The powerful Zintan armed group, which has been in control of the airport since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, was still holding it by Monday.

Meanwhile, the United Nations mission in Libya said it was withdrawing its staff from Libya "temporarily" because of the deteriorating security in the country.

Tripoli has been witnessing one of its worst spasms of violence since the ouster of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Militias, many of which originate from rebel forces that fought Gaddafi, have become powerful players in post-war Libya, filling a void left by weak police and security and cooperating with the government to provide order.

Benghazi clashes

In the eastern city of Benghazi, at least six people have been killed and 25 wounded in heavy fighting between security forces and rival militias since late Sunday.

Irregular forces loyal to renegade former general Khalifa Haftar bombarded bases of a rival armed group as part of his campaign to oust what Haftar labels as "terrorists".

Government Special forces also clashed with militia fighters in the city.

Most of the dead and injured were civilians, according to security and medical sources at Benghazi hospital.

At least 10 houses were hit with missiles and government offices and banks were forced to close.

In addition to the closure of Tripoli airport, Misrata city airport was also shut on Monday. This, along with the closure two months ago of Benghazi airport, leaves the country with only a land route to Tunisia.

The Tripoli air control centre covering western Libya was closed because it was not safe for staff to go to work, aviation officials and state news agency Lana said on Monday.

The control centre is responsible for traffic in Tripoli, Misrata and Sabha.

That leaves only the tiny Labraq and Tobruk airports in the east, with few international connections, open for traffic.

People living in western Libya must make an arduous road journey to Tunisia.

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Source:
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