Fighting Between Militias in Libya Rages as Greece Pulls Out its Citizens

Burned out airplanes are seen in a satellite image taken after the shelling of the international airport in Tripoli, Libya, 25 July 2014. (EUROPEAN SPACE IMAGING / DIGITALGLOBE VIA EPA)
Burned out airplanes are seen in a satellite image taken after the shelling of the international airport in Tripoli, Libya, 25 July 2014. (EUROPEAN SPACE IMAGING / DIGITALGLOBE VIA EPA)

Militia fighting in Libya forced Greece to join an expanding list of nations evacuating their citizens from the North African oil producer, with battles resuming near Tripoli’s international airport today.

The Greek Navy frigate Salamis is expected to board about 180 people today, including 70 Greeks along with roughly 80 Chinese, and Cypriots and Britons, a Greek government official said, requesting anonymity to discuss the operation. The Foreign Ministry in Athens told embassy staff they can leave Tripoli, the state-run Libya News Agency said. The U.S. and U.K. have pulled some workers from missions in Libya amid deteriorating security.

Heavy fighting erupted around Tripoli airport, where an anti-Islamist militia guarding the facility has been battling rivals, leaving scores dead and aircraft damaged. Libya’s Al Nabaa television channel said the violence sent residents fleeing and prevented fire fighters from tackling blazes at fuel tanks on the airport road.

The conflict highlights how three years after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya may be descending into a patchwork of virtual fiefdoms where gunmen with motivations ranging from controlling oil wealth to religious ideology operate.

“The cleavages and problems that Libya has are now out in the open,” said Jon Marks, chairman of U.K.-based Cross-border Information, a business consultancy company. The rivalry between militias is “a recipe for chaos.”

Violence has also flared for three days in the eastern city of Benghazi. The Al Assema channel reported that Red Crescent staff retrieved the bodies of 35 people killed.

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SOURCE: Mariam Fam and Tarek El-Tablawy
Bloomberg News