News / Middle East

Libya's Islamist Militias Claim Control of Tripoli

  • A building on fire, which witnesses said was hit by a rocket, burns after clashes between rival militias in the Sarraj district in Tripoli, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • Libya Shield Force members are seen near a building on fire, which witnesses said was hit by a rocket, after clashes between rival militias in the Sarraj district of Tripoli, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • Plumes of black smoke are seen after war planes struck Misrata positions in Tripoli in an attack claimed by renegade general Khalifa Haftar, Aug. 23, 2014.
Rival militias fight near Tripoli, Libya, airport
VOA News

Libya is engulfed in new political turmoil, with an Islamist militia openly challenging the legitimacy of the country's elected parliament, after its fighters took control of Tripoli's battered international airport.

After seizing the airport in the Libyan capital, the militia from the coastal city of Misrata called Sunday for the old General National Congress to be reinstated.

It alleged the parliament elected in June was complicit in mysterious airstrikes on Misrati positions at the airport as its militiamen fought rival fighters from the mountainous region of Zintan for six weeks for control of the key facility.

The new parliament, based in Tobruk, 1,600 kilometers east of Tripoli, branded the Misratis as terrorists, along with another group, Ansar al-Sharia, which controls 80 percent of the eastern city of Benghazi

Parliament called the two groups "a legitimate target" of the national army, which has been unable to control violence in the country since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The Misratis directly blamed the airstrikes in the past week on Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Cairo denied its involvement, but the UAE had no immediate comment.

General National Congress

General National Congress official Omar Hmaidan defended the Islamist militias and called on the old assembly to resume its meetings to, in his words, "unite the country.”

Hmaidan said the new parliament should not meet in an “ivory tower” in the east of the country, but should return to the capital Tripoli. He argued the National Congress is still legal and the new parliament cannot claim to speak for the country.

Hmaidan claimed recently the new parliament has “violated the constitution” with a recent call for foreign intervention in Libya. 

The National Congress' mandate expired last February and many of its members are outside the country. 

Airstrikes on Sunday

Meanwhile, unidentified war planes attacked targets in Libya's capital Tripoli on Sunday, residents said, hours after forces from the city of Misrata said they had seized the main airport.

Tripoli residents heard jets followed by explosions at dawn, but no more details were immediately available.

In recent weeks Libya has seen the worst fighting since the NATO-backed campaign to oust Gadhafi. Renegade general Khalifa Haftar has declared war on Islamist-leaning forces, part of growing anarchy in the oil producer.

His forces claimed responsibility for air raids on Tripoli on Saturday and last Monday, targeting a group called Operation Dawn. But this group, consisting mainly of fighters from Misrata, said on Saturday that it had captured Tripoli's main airport from a rival faction from Zintan in western Libya.

In the campaign to overthrow Gadhafi, fighters from Zintan and Misrata were comrades-in-arms. But they later fell out and this year have turned parts of Tripoli into a battlefield.

Chaos in Libya


Libya's neighbors and Western powers worry Libya will turn into a failed state as the weak government is unable to control armed factions.


Haftar launched a campaign against Islamists in the eastern city of Benghazi in May and threw his weight behind the Zintan fighters.

Fighting also erupted between Haftar's troops and allied army special forces with Islamists in two Benghazi suburbs on Saturday, killing eight soldiers and wounding 35, medics said.

The violence has prompted the United Nations and foreign embassies in Libya to evacuate their staff and citizens, and foreign airlines have largely stopped flying to Libya.

Libya's central government lacks a functioning national army and relies on militia for public security.

But while these forces receive state salaries and wear uniforms, they report in practice to their own commanders and towns.

Edward Yeranian contributed to this report from Cairo. Some information for this report provided by Reuters.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Rufina from: Free Scotland
August 24, 2014 12:12 PM
"parliament"...?? - a bunch of Islamic idiots trying to kill other Islamic idiots... why should we care...?? - let them kill each other and enjoy the spectacle... its a great entertainment... much better than basketball...

by: meanbill from: USA
August 24, 2014 10:45 AM
Libya and the world should thank the US and NATO again, for bringing (freedom) to another country with their military interference, by killing Qaddafi for the Libyans, and as President Obama "quote" said;.. "He prevented thousands of deaths" by leading the attack without US Congressional approvable to kill Qaddafi..... THANK THE US AND NATO, for this Libyan debacle?.... and Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and now Ukraine?..... and the arming and rearming of Israel, to keep on killing the defenseless Palestinian civilians !!!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs