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Libya regains control of airport

Tripoli - Libya regained control of Tripoli International Airport on Monday after a militia seized the tarmac and grounded all flights, a senior official said.

“The authorities have complete control over the airport,” Deputy Interior Minister Omar al-Khadrawi told journalists in the capital, adding that dozens assailants were arrested and stripped of their weapons.

Pilots leave after their flights were prevented from departing by armed members of the militia at Tripoli International Airport. Credit: Reuters

The National Transitional Council had authorised the interior and defence ministries, who oversee a broad constellation of brigades made up of former rebels, to “use all means necessary, including force”, to retake the airport.

Security forces flooded the airport after negotiations broke down, he said.

“Some of the assailants fled and others turned themselves in without resistance,” he said, adding between 30 and 40 people were arrested.

Khadrawi said the “saboteurs” also blew up a hangar and set fire to fields surrounding the airport.

“We will alert airline companies that the airport will be shut over the next 24 hours,” he said, adding that technical issues, such as the rupture of communication lines, needed to be fixed before flights could resume.

Earlier in the day, a militia of Libyan ex-rebels seized the runway of Tripoli International Airport, surrounding planes and grounding all flights after their leader's apparent arrest.

Dozens of pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns arrived on the scene shortly before sunset. Their arrival was followed by intermittent salvos of gunfire, an AFP journalist at the scene reported. - Sapa-AFP

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