Fighting Among Libya Militias Kills 16 Near Tripoli Airport

(Bloomberg) -- Fighting between rival Libyan militias near Tripoli’s international airport left at least 16 people dead and grounded flights, further exposing the UN-backed government’s fragile hold on the capital.

At least 38 others were wounded, according to Abdul-Daim al-Rabti, head of Tripoli’s Field Hospital. Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said the attackers sought the release of al-Qaeda and Islamic State prisoners held at a major jail in the airport facility. Two cargo planes were hit in the fighting and a nearby highway was shut.

The assault was led by the Tripoli-based Al-Burga militia, while the airport is guarded and operated by the Special Deterrence Force, a Salafi-oriented militia allied with Sarraj’s government. Among the militants and political detainees held at the prison is the brother of the suicide bomber who attacked a concert in the U.K. city of Manchester in May.

More than six years after the ouster and killing of longtime leader Moammar Qaddafi, oil-rich Libya is a divided nation mired in civil and economic strife. UN-mediated peace efforts have so far failed to bridge the divide between the Sarraj administration and a rival legislature based in the east that’s dominated by Khalifa Haftar, who heads the country’s most powerful force.

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