World, Africa

Libyan unity govt assumes control of Tripoli airport

Move follows withdrawal from airport of forces loyal to Tripoli-based salvation government

29.05.2017
Libyan unity govt assumes control of Tripoli airport FILE PHOTO

By Walid Abdullah

TRIPOLI, Libya

Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed unity government have established control over Tripoli’s international airport, according to a Libyan military official.

“Presidential Guards and the Interior Ministry have assumed control of the airport and are now responsible for its security,” Presidential Guards commander Najmi al-Nakoua said in a televised statement late Sunday.

Forces affiliated with the unity government reportedly took control of the airport following the withdrawal of forces loyal to Libya’s self-proclaimed “salvation government”, which also remains based in Tripoli.

Speaking to local private television channel Al-Nabaa, Colonel Ibrahim Bayt al-Mal, a spokesman for the Misrata Military Council, confirmed that several battalions affiliated with the salvation government had withdrawn from the airport and its environs.

“These battalions pulled out of the area with a view to averting bloodshed,” he said.

“The partial withdrawal involved some 250 military vehicles that departed for Misrata,” he added without elaborating.

Last Friday, Tripoli was rocked by violent clashes between forces affiliated with the rival governments that left almost 50 people dead, according to Libya’s unity government-affiliated Health Ministry.

Tripoli’s airport had remained largely inoperable due to earlier clashes between “Fajr Libya” forces, linked to the salvation government, and forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who serves Libya’s Tobruk-based parliament.

Libya has been locked in a state of violence and turmoil since 2011, when a bloody popular uprising ended with the ouster and death former President Muammar Gaddafi.

Following Gaddafi’s departure, the country’s stark political divisions yielded two rival seats of government, one in Tobruk and another in Tripoli.

Late last year, Libya’s rival governments signed a UN-backed agreement that led to the establishment of a new “unity government” with the ostensible aim of resolving the country’s six-year political standoff.

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