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article imageOp-Ed: Libya may ask for international help as militias clash at airport

By Ken Hanly     Jul 16, 2014 in World
Tripoli - On Sunday July 13, the Zintan militia — which protects the international airport at Tripoli — came under attack by a rival militia from the city of Misrata.
A statement issued today by the Libyan government reveals that they are discussing a “potential request for international forces” to ensure their hold on power, as violence continues to escalate nationwide. The Zintan militia are loosely allied with CIA-linked General Hifter (or Haftar) who has launched what he calls Operation Dignity. The BBC summarizes some of what he has done so far: General Khalifa Haftar also has a powerful militia, the Libya National Army (LNA). It was behind the 16 May air attack on an Islamist base in Benghazi while the allied Zintan militia launched an assault two days later on the parliamentary building in Tripoli. Gen Haftar says his objective is to defeat the Islamists, though government officials accuse him of being a renegade simply driven by a thirst for power. In Libya attacking and burning the parliament and kidnapping legislators and officials is no bar to being hired to protect the international airport in the capital.
There is growing civil conflict as militias loyal to factions in parliament opposed to Hifter. often Islamist-oriented, come into conflict with militia forces loyal to him. The violence at the airport badly damaged the control tower and also destroyed 90 percent of the planes on the ground. Apparently even more extreme Islamist fighters are returning to Libya from Syria to join battle against Hifter and his allies. According to Reuters at least 15 people have been killed in the Tripoli clashes since Sunday. The UN has decided to withdraw all its staff due to the increase in violence. Misrata city airport was also closed on Monday. Benghazi airport has been closed since May.
One bright spot in Libya is an increase in oil production as rebels and the government have agreed to resume exports in several ports. However, even the US is worried about the increase in violence in Libya. John Kerry said: "We are deeply concerned about the level of violence in Libya. It is dangerous and it must stop. We are working very, very hard through our special envoys to find the political cohesion... that can bring people together to create stronger capacity in the government of Libya so that this violence can end." The results of June elections are to be released later this month but it is not clear that this will do anything to halt the increasing conflict between militia groups. It is not clear which nations would want to send forces to Libya to help restore stability. The Islamists would probably see western forces as accomplices with Hifter in trying to disarm them and keep them from having political power.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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