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Libyan Newswire

Islamists seize Tripoli’s airport, announce new government

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LibyaIslamists seize Tripoli’s airport, announce new government

Published 25 August 2014

Libya moved closer to disintegration on Saturday after Islamist-led militias captured the airport in the capital, Tripoli, and announced the creation of a government. In what the Islamists called Operation Dawn, a coalition of different Islamist and Misrata militias captured the airport in a bloody firefight against pro-government militias. Saturday’s battle came after a five-week siege the Islamist coalition had imposed on the capital. Yesterday, Sunday, Islamist fighters set many of airport buildings ablaze. Regional experts say that developments over the weekend threaten to move Libya across the line from troubled post-Arab spring country to outright failed state.

Libya moved closer to disintegration on Saturday after Islamist-led militias captured the airport in the capital, Tripoli, and announced the creation of a government.

In what the Islamists called Operation Dawn, a coalition of different Islamist and Misrata militias captured the airport in a bloody firefight against pro-government militias.

Saturday’s battle came after a five-week siege the Islamist coalition had imposed on the capital.

Yesterday, Sunday, Islamist fighters set many of airport buildings ablaze.

This latest chapter in the fragmentation of Libya began in July, after Islamist parties did poorly in parliamentary elections. Leaders of several Islamist militias said they would not accept the election results since the winning parties were supported by loyalists of the former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Libya’s official parliament, the House of Representatives, denounced the attack as illegal, branding Dawn a “terrorist organization” and announcing a state of war against the group.

The House of Representatives a few months ago has relocated to the northeastern city of Tubruk. Eastern Libya has been under the control of Islamist militias, and the move was made in an effort to assert to unity of Libya. This past weekend’s developments leaves Libya with two governments: An Islamist government sitting in Tripoli, which is in the largely tribal west, and the “official” government now located in the inhospitable Islamist east.

Each of the two governments will now be battling for the hearts and minds of the country’s dozens of armed militias.

Since the fall of Qaddafi in November 2011, Libya has been in a state of a war of all against all. The parliament, the government, the office of the prime minister, and other government bodies exist on paper only, with no effective power. The real power is held by a variety of armed militias. There are few regular forces for the government to call upon.

Thus, the only option available to the prime minister, Abdullah al-Thani, is to try to persuade nationalist and tribal militias to recapture Tripoli.

The Guardian reports that the Dawn militias are consolidating their hold on the capital by rounding up government sympathizers and people from Zintan, whose militia defended the airport.

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