Connect with us


Tripoli airport becomes Libya’s new frontline between rival militias




– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Tripoli airport becomes Libya’s new frontline between rival militias
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: First, there is a single shot. Then Libyan fighters empty their anti-aircraft guns as others crouch for cover at Tripoli International Airport.

Until Saturday night, the airport was a hub for Libyans coming home for the Muslim fasting month and expatriates going on vacation. Now, Libya’s main airport has turned into a battlefield between rival militias, a sign of anarchy in the oil producer.

The weak government with its almost non-existent army is appealing for calm but fighters on both sides show no signs of abating in the worst militia clashes in the capital Tripoli since November.

Militiamen from the northwestern region of Zintan are ready to defend the airport that they have protected in the absence of state forces since helping to take Tripoli in August 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi’s regime fell.

“The other side has unfortunately decided to use the language of gun,” said Mohammed Ramadan, head of the town council of Zintan, which makes up the bulk of fighters.

The other side, accused by the government of attacking the airport area on Sunday, is made up of militias mainly from the coastal city of Misrata, rivals of the Zintanis. Divisions along regional and tribal lines still split the North African country.

The rival militias both claim to work for the sake of stability and accuse each other of abandoning the ideals of the revolution ending Gaddafi’s dictatorship.

During the NATO-backed uprising, both set aside their differences but now they are vying for control of Tripoli. The airport 30 km (19 miles) to the south of the capital is the biggest trophy.

Tank ammunition is stapled in rows next to pickup trucks with mounted machine guns or mortars, while a Russian-made tank drives around the terminal with its turret swinging around.

With shooting even continuing during Ramadan fast-breaking at sunset, fighters take turns resting inside the air-conditioned terminal. They sit on chairs and luggage trolleys next to check-in counters, while fellow men fire their guns at the frontline, around one kilometer at the airport’s other end.


The government has said 90 percent of the airport and planes parked there have been damaged but an assessment is impossible as long as bullets fly around. One hit a flag pole next to the terminal while a Reuters multimedia team was filming. The transport minister had to abandon a tour late on Monday after the airport perimeter got shelled with Grad rockets.

A Reuters reporter saw around six damaged planes – left by Libyan carriers in front of the terminal late on Saturday. One aircraft is totally burned out. Others show huge holes in the wings or body from anti-aircraft volleys. The control tower also took a hit but the lift still works.

Busses parked on the runway were also untouched but shrouded in smoke from burning grass near the runway where rockets landed.

“Some equipment at the control tower will have to be replaced and imported from abroad,” said Ramadan, sitting on a bench behind the sales counters of European airlines Lufthansa and Alitalia. Other fighters sit on chairs next to a cafe and a luggage shop with its goods untouched.

“The runway took hits from rockets. A maintenance firm will have to fix repair it,” he said. A soldier said: “The terminal is unharmed but the custom control hall got hit.”

Outside fighters – wearing army uniforms or jeans and white shirts – relax in front of the terminal while others shout “Allah Akbar” (God is great) when anti-aircraft guns roar nearby.

For the night, mattresses are laid out next to boxes full of ammunition and dates for fast-breaking. “There is no chance,” said Ramadan, when asked about success chances by government mediators to halt fighting. “The other side has rejected it.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Destination Guide5 hours ago

Best areas to live in Phuket (2022)

Video5 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Fears of shenanigans in Mountain B Pub fire investigation

Travel5 hours ago

5 vineyards and wineries in Thailand all wine lovers should know

Sponsored15 hours ago

Super luxury villas in Phuket with breathtaking ocean views

Thailand5 hours ago

Thai neitzens angry at SUV driver using a siren just to use toilet

Thailand6 hours ago

New poll says people from Thailand more relaxed about Covid-19

Thailand7 hours ago

Rama 2 Road guilty of being a repeat accident offender

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand7 hours ago

Body of one teacher found in double suicide pact in SE Thailand

Thailand9 hours ago

Son who tried to starve mother to death dies of TB in NE Thailand

Crime9 hours ago

Mystery 911 emergency service call turns out to be a monkey

Thailand10 hours ago

Hot gran bowled over by Shane Warne before he died in Thailand

Thailand10 hours ago

Soi Dog Foundation pledges to neuter 1 million animals in 2 years

Thailand11 hours ago

EPL praises Thailand for crackdown on illegal footie sites

Pattaya12 hours ago

Sick German man fails in suicide attempt in Pattaya

Video12 hours ago

Thailand approves all time high electricity price | GMT

Economy12 hours ago

Instant noodles, a staple budget food, fighting to increase prices

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11