New rocket attack on Tripoli airport

media captionLibyan government spokesman Ahmed Lamine: ''Ninety per cent of the airplanes were hit''

Libya's main international airport has been hit by a new rocket attack a day after fighting forced it to close.

At least one person has died and 12 planes have been damaged at Tripoli airport.

A government spokesman said Libya was considering calling for international forces to help re-establish security.

Libyan leaders have struggled to bring stability to the country since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011, with rival armed groups competing for power.

On Sunday, militia including members of the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room (LROR) tried to seize control of the airport from the Zintan militia, which has controlled it since Gaddafi was toppled.

The BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli says both militias are believed to be on the official payroll.

image copyrightAFP
image captionThis is one of the planes damaged in the fighting

A security source told the BBC that the airport was attacked by a "large number of rockets, including Grad rockets" on Monday evening.

They said one person from the force protecting the airport had been killed and six others injured and that the control tower had been hit by rocket fire.

All flights to and from the airport have been suspended until at least Wednesday.

Government spokesman Ahmed Lamine said that 90% of the planes stationed at the airport had been destroyed.

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

"This would give the government time to build the state and institutions," he added.

He said millions of dollars worth of damage had been caused by the fighting.

Analysis: Rana Jawad, BBC News, Tripoli

The extent of the damage to the airport is not yet clear but some say it could take months before it reopens.

Very little shocks Libyans these days, but the latest attack on this vital lifeline has left many at a loss for words. They didn't think any militia would ever go that far - it was raining Grad rockets across the airport and its surrounding area.

Residents nearby have been terrified. Those who have the option to move to safer areas have - but most can't.

One Libyan said it reminded her of the sanctions in the 1990s - when Libya was a pariah state under Col Gaddafi, cut off from much of the world and going abroad meant a boat or a road trip before possibly boarding a plane elsewhere.

The government says it is considering the possibility of requesting an international force - it could be an empty threat to gain more leverage on all the militias - but it could also be that they feel they have run out of options. A bigger, more powerful force is needed to subdue all the armed groups - that would take an army that Libya doesn't have.

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe Zintan militia remains in charge of the airport

The fighting has led the United Nations to announce the withdrawal of all its staff from Libya.

"The mission concluded that it would not be possible to continue its work... while at the same time ensuring the security and safety of its staff" the UN said in a statement.

Airports closed

Tripoli international airport, 30km (18 miles) south of the capital, is Libya's main transport link with the outside world.

media captionThe BBC's Rana Jawad says the government is considering requesting help from international forces "to prevent chaos"

The country's second-largest airport in Benghazi has been closed for two months. Misrata airport, the only remaining airport with regular international flights, was also closed on Monday.

It is believed that damage sustained by Tripoli's air control tower was the reason for the closure of Misrata airport.

There are no longer any flights from Libya to and from the EU, as the small regional airports still functioning do not meet EU standards.

The UN mission in Libya left the country in a land convoy via the border crossing with Tunisia.

image copyrightAFP
image captionSeveral vehicles and aircraft were damaged in Sunday's fighting

Analysts say the rebels are seen by Libyans as both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, in the absence of an effective army, they provide security across much of the country and protect the borders.

On the other, they have been accused of human rights abuses, unlawful detention and of taking the law into their own hands.

Are you in the area? Please contact us by email including the word 'Libya' in the subject title.

Related Topics