Heavy clashes erupt around Tripoli airport
Smoke rises near buildings after heavy fighting between rival militias broke out near the airport in Tripoli - REUTERS

TRIPOLI:  Heavy fighting has erupted around Tripoli International Airport, where rival militias have been battling for a week for control of the site, local residents said on Sunday.

The fighting broke out just days after one powerful militia said it was ready to put an end to heavy clashes that had deepened fears the north African country is becoming a failed state.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from Sunday’s clashes.

Three years after the fall of Muammar Qadhafi, Libya’s fragile government is failing to assert authority over heavily armed brigades of former rebel fighters who have often clashed over political and economic power.

The airport stand-off pits fighters from Zintan in the northwest, who controlled the airport since the ousting of Qadhafi, against armed groups tied to Misrata, a western coastal town. Both are loosely allied with competing Islamist and nationalist political factions.

The clashes have all but suspended international flights from Libya, damaged more than a dozen planes parked there and prompted the United Nations to pull its staff out of the North African country because of security fears.

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