TRIPOLI, June 1 A force operating under Libya's
U.N.-brokered government said on Thursday it was securing
Tripoli's main airport, which has been closed since it was badly
damaged in fighting in 2014 and which was controlled by a rival
faction until last week.
The Presidential Guard formed by the U.N.-backed Government
of National Accord (GNA) was able to access Tripoli
International Airport after loosely aligned armed groups gained
ground in heavy fighting in the capital last Friday.
The GNA has struggled to impose its authority since arriving
in Tripoli in March last year and to rein in militias that still
hold sway on the ground. It has been rejected by factions in
eastern Libya loyal to powerful military commander Khalifa
The capture of the airport shows a gradual extension of the
power of armed groups in Tripoli that have at least tolerated
the GNA's presence.
The airport, which lies about 25 km (15 miles) south of
central Tripoli, had been controlled by armed groups loyal to a
previous, self-declared government.
On Thursday, a passenger jet swooped low over the airport in
an effort to demonstrate to journalists gathered there that it
"We are in Tripoli international airport which is free from
the control of any group," the head of the Presidential Guard,
Najmi Al-Nakua, told reporters. "Now it's secured by legitimate
He said a number of military camps and other strategic
locations had also been handed over to the army or other
competent authorities after Friday's clashes.
The airport's terminal building was largely destroyed in
fighting three years ago that left Libya with two competing
governments, one in Tripoli and the other in the east.
Since then, international and domestic flights have operated
out of Mitiga airport, just east of the city centre.
"We have received the airport with all its facilities," said
deputy transport minister Hesham Abu Shelaiwat.
"All the technical cadres will gradually return to their
work. It takes two weeks to assess the facilities."
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by