Fight for Tripoli Airport Leaves 47 Dead in 24 Hours

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Rival Libyan militias battling for control of Tripoli International Airport Sunday have left at least 47 dead and 120 wounded over the past 24 hours, according to the country's health ministry.

The fighting began July 13 when a coalition of Islamist-led militias from east of Tripoli – including the powerful Misrata Brigades, who played a key role in the ousting of Moammar Gadhafi – threatened to wrest control of the airport from a militia coming from the western city of Zintan. The country's ports, airports, and oil installations are strategic sites for Libyans attempting to control the state.

Sunday's fighting saw the most "intense bombardment so far," security official Al-Jilani al-Dahesh told The Telegraph. The airport's main terminal building was hit Thursday, and air traffic controllers have stopped working, grounding flights across the western area of the country.

Users took to social media to post photos of the destruction.

The oil-producing North African nation has reached out to the United Nations Security Council for help in quelling the chaos, warning that the violence could turn into an all-out civil war. 

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"As the number of military actors mobilizing and consolidating their presence within the capital continues to grow, there is a mounting sense of a probable imminent and significant escalation in the conflict," UN special envoy to Libya Talek Mitri told the Council. "The stakes are high for all sides."

Already this month, gunmen have assassinated a female politician, Fariha al-Barkawi, a former member of Parliament. The U.N. has also pulled its 160 staff members out of the country over the past two weeks, moving most of them to Tunisia.

Last week, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz asked the U.N. Security Council for help, saying the members need "to take the case of Libya seriously before it is too late":

We are not asking for military intervention to protect the oil but we need teams—experts, trained people—to work with Libyans... so the Libyans can learn how to protect these strategic sites.

Should Libya become the failed state, kidnapped by radical groups and warlords, the consequences will be far reaching and perhaps could be beyond control.

The U.N. Security Council has condemned the violence in a statement:

This follows a deeply concerning prolonged pattern of politically motivated and inter-militia violence, making it even more difficult for the Libyan authorities to govern effectively.

Meanwhile, the European Union also issued a statement, directly appealing to fighters to spare civilians and stop the fighting:

The EU is concerned about the protracted conflict over Tripoli International Airport and urges all parties to exercise restraint, to abide by international law and to respect civilians.

The EU calls on all parties to find a peaceful resolution through dialogue and compromise... There is no military solution to the crisis in Libya... The only option is a political solution and a peaceful democratic process.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.