Home > After Gaddafi > Tanks, militia encircle Tripoli airport – RT

Tanks, militia encircle Tripoli airport – RT

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tripoli International Airport (Reuters / Ismail Zitouny)-RT

A Libyan militia has encircled Tripoli’s international airport, forcing flights to be rerouted to a nearby military airport, a security official reports. Tanks have been deployed to the airport as the standoff remains tense.
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­A Libyan security official says the militia men occupied the airport’s runway on Monday, storming it with heaving machine guns and armored vehicles.
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Another official said the group, known as the al-Awfea Brigade, is demanding the release of an imprisoned leader whom they claim disappeared last night, Reuters reports.
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“The situation in the airport is very tense and tanks are surrounding the buildings. No one is allowed into the building,” the anonymous official told the agency.
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Thus far all flights into the airport have been diverted to Mitiga Airport, which is located 8 km east of the Libyan capital. All outbound flights have been canceled.
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A spokesman for the ruling National Transitional Council said the kidnapped Awfea leader, Col. Abu Oegeila al-Hebeishi, was taken by unknown rebels while en route to Tripoli.
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He was reportedly traveling from al-Awfea Brigade base of Tarhouna, a medium sized town located 65 km. south of the capital.
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Tarhouna’s dominate tribe, also known as the Tarhouna, were favored by toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and held many posts in the country’s military under his rule.  Tarhouna locals are viewed with suspicion by former rebels who fought to topple the Gaddafi regime.
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Bloody tribal clashes in the southern city of Sabha left 150 dead this past March before authorities were able to negotiate a ceasefire. The previous month, violent clashes in the southeastern district of Al Kufra claimed more than 100 lives.
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Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) has struggled in recent times to reign in disparate tribal forces which fought on both sides of the last year’s civil war.

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Published: 4 June, 2012, 17:25

Updated: 5 June, 2012 , 1:56 (MT).

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