Libya crisis: Militias challenge parliament

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Rana Jawad says the airport has changed hands between militias

Islamist militias in Libya have challenged the legitimacy of the new parliament after announcing their seizure of Tripoli airport.

The militias accused the house of complicity with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in a deadly air strike on militia positions at the airport.

The elected parliament has branded the militias as "terrorists".

Egypt's President Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi has denied any involvement in Saturday's air strike.

The militia alliance in Libya captured the capital's international airport after a battle lasting nearly a month.

Islamist-affiliated forces from Misrata and other cities took over the airport from the Zintan militia, which has held it for three years.

Violence in Libya has surged recently between the rival groups who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in the 2011 uprising.

The airport, Libya's largest, has been closed for over a month because of the fighting.

Hundreds of people have died since fighting broke out in Tripoli in July.

'Sovereignty' at stake

Libya's new parliament, the House of Representatives, said the groups now in control of the airport were "terrorist organisations".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The airport and the area around it have seen fierce clashes in recent weeks
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Much of Tripoli's infrastructure has been damaged in the fighting

The new parliament, which is based in Tobruk because of violence in Libya's main cities, has repeatedly called for the militia groups wielding power in the country to disband the join the nascent national army.

But so far, few have shown a willingness to disarm.

Analysis by the BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli

The significance of one militia seizing Tripoli's airport from another is difficult for many civilians in the capital to grasp - especially those displaced by the fighting, and families who have had to bury their dead after stray rockets hit their homes.

Libya's main airport is a wreck, but it didn't stop those who overran it taking pictures of each other celebrating what they see as a victory.

It's a symbolic win for them and their backers. However, as long as Libya's airports, oil terminals, ports and other key institutions are run by militias on either side of the divide, nothing has really changed on the ground.

It won't until the state takes control, and it is nowhere near doing so.

A spokesman for the Misratan-led militia alliance called for the previous Islamist-dominated parliament to reconvene.

Umar Humaydan, who was himself a spokesman for the previous parliament, said that the move was necessary to "save the country's sovereignty".

Explosions in capital

The capture of the airport is a setback for Zintani forces, who are loosely allied to Gen Khalifa Haftar.

The ex-army chief, whose forces mainly operate in the east of the country, launched a campaign earlier this year against what he termed the "Islamist-dominated" government.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Fighting is also raging in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi

The country's militias and political parties alike have had shifting alliances over the last two years.

Our correspondent says that the struggle is not a clear-cut Islamist versus nationalist battle because some militias are essentially fighting for their continued existence and empowerment.

Thousands have fled their homes to escape the violence.

More than three years after Gaddafi was overthrown and killed, Libya's police and army remain weak in comparison with the militias who control large parts of the country.