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LIBYA

Libyan militia says ceasefire reached to end Tripoli airport battle

Fighting between rival Libyan armed groups comes to an end after agreement is reached to stop five days of hostilities at Tripoli International Airport

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 11:14am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 11:40pm
 

Powerful militias battling for the Libyan capital's airport have agreed a ceasefire, after the government sought UN help to stop the country from becoming a "failed state".

Tripoli's mayor and leaders of the battling militia said overnight that a truce had been agreed and that control of the international airport would be handed over to neutral forces.

The airport has been closed since fighting erupted on Sunday, when Islamist gunmen from the city of Misrata launched an attack on the facility, which has for three years been held by liberal, anti-Islamist fighters from Zintan, southwest of the capital.

Mokhtar Lakhdar, a commander for the Zintan forces, said a truce had been agreed under the authority of the city's government council.

Dozens of rockets have been fired at the airport, badly damaging planes as well as the main terminal, but Lakhdar confirmed this stopped on Thursday night.

Ex-rebel fighters from Zintan and Misrata, east of Tripoli, both played a key role in the Nato-backed uprising that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

But they have become fierce rivals in the deadly power struggle between armed groups that followed.

Ahmed Hadeia, a spokesman for the rival Misrata fighters, said the ceasefire was "only around the airport" and did not include other sites controlled by the Zintan forces.

Misrata leaders said in a televised statement that the fighting at the airport was a "battle of revolutionaries ... against followers of the old regime" of Gaddafi.

Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz meanwhile asked the UN Security Council to dispatch experts to train Libya's defence and police forces to ensure they can protect oil fields, airports and other vital sites.

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