TRIPOLI, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) — Libya’s Islamist militants’ coalition Libya Dawn announced on Saturday that they have taken Tripoli international airport, a crucial stronghold for the Zintan pro-secular militias, local al-Nabaa TV reported.
TV footage showed that some Islamist fighters were standing near burning civil planes on the tarmac and damaged buildings. Earlier on Saturday, the coalition said their forces were advancing to the airport and have already taken the nearby roads.
The announcement, if true, means that pro-secular militias from the western city of Zintan would suffer a major setback and could be driven out of the capital city of Tripoli.
But some analysts said the Zintan militias might seek retaliation in the coming days, citing that hoards of ammunition were already freighted to Tripoli.
The strategic Tripoli airport has been under control of the Zintan militia groups since the 2011 turmoil that toppled Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi. But since July 13, Islamist fighters have been launching assaults to capture it.
The deadly clashes between the two sides have left at least 102 people dead and 452 others wounded in Tripoli alone, while the war zone has expanded to major cities including Benghazi, Gharyan and Zawiya. Local media said the conflict has already turned into a full-fledged civil war.
The UN Support Mission in Libya said on Saturday that it will continue mediating between the rival groups, despite fruitless efforts previously to end the clashes.