Libya may call for international troops to help re-establish security

Government may appeal for international forces to re-establish security

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2014, 8:40pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 1:27am


Libya's government said yesterday it was considering calling for international forces to help re-establish security after deadly clashes closed Tripoli airport, severing air links with the outside world.

On Monday, the United Nations announced it was evacuating its remaining staff from Libya because of the deteriorating security situation.

With liberal and Islamist militias locked in a brutal power struggle, the country's main international airport came under renewed attack late on Monday, for the second straight day.

Dozens of rockets were fired, killing a security guard and wounding six others, officials said.

Government spokesman Ahmed Lamine said 90 per cent of the planes parked at the airport were destroyed, without giving the number of aircraft damaged. A security official said at least 10 aircraft of Libya's main carriers Afriqiyah Airways and Libyan Airlines were damaged in the fighting. The control tower was also hit. The airport had already been shut down for at least three days after the Zintan militia, which controls it, was attacked by Islamist fighters on Sunday.

Shortly after the latest attack the government said it was "looking into the possibility of making an appeal for international forces on the ground to re-establish security and help the government impose its authority".

The statement from a spokesman added that the forces would help protect civilians, prevent anarchy and allow the government to build up the army and police.

Nato warplanes helped to overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, sparking a power struggle between rival armed groups that has wracked the oil-rich state.

Fighting between militias has intensified since a general election in June, and the UN said it was withdrawing its remaining staff. The UN Support Mission in Libya said the move was temporary. It pulled out dozens of personnel last week.

Witnesses said a UN convoy left Tripoli on Sunday by road heading for the Tunisian border, 170km to the west.

The growing lawlessness plaguing Libya has heightened international fears of the conflict becoming more widespread.

Speaking in Vienna yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was "deeply concerned" about the levels of unrest in Libya, and was "working very hard to find political cohesion". "Every single day in the State Department we make assessments about the level of violence, about our personnel who are there, about our embassy."