Dawn of Libya Says It Has Seized the Country’s Capital and Airport After Weeks of Fighting
Libya’s Islamist militias said Sunday they have consolidated their hold on Tripoli and its international airport, driving out rival militias to the outskirts of the capital after a weeks-long battle for control of the strategic hub.
The umbrella group for Islamist militias, calling itself Dawn of Libya, said it has also taken hold of other locations in the capital that were controlled by rival militias. The move draws to a close one chapter in a prolonged confrontation between the Islamist-allied militia, largely from the city of Misrata, and the powerful militia from the western mountains of Zintan.
The fight has largely destroyed the airport and scarred the capital, prompting diplomats, foreign nationals and thousands of Libyans to flee.
The violence in Libya is rooted in the empowerment of militias after successive transitional governments, since the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, depended on them to maintain order in the absence of a strong police force or a unified military.
It also comes as part of a backlash by Islamist factions after losing their power in parliament after June elections and in the face of a campaign by a renegade military general against extremist Islamic militias in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city.
The recent violence has been the worst in Libya since 2011. Mysterious airstrikes have struck the positions of Islamist militias, sparking accusations by them that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which oppose Islamists in the region, were behind them.
A field commander of the Dawn of Libya militia said Sunday his forces were in control of Tripoli and adjacent cities, having pushed back the rival Zintan forces some 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of the capital. It wasn’t immediately possible to reach members of the Zintan militias.