Rival Libyan forces claim control of airport
BENGHAZI, Libya — Forces loyal to rival Libyan army commander Khalifa Hifter said Saturday they seized control of the main airport in Libya’s capital of Tripoli, two days after Hifter ordered his forces to seize the seat of Libya’s U.N.-backed government. Hifter’s media office said in a post online that they took full control of the Tripoli international airport and were working to secure the facility. They posted photos of troops apparently inside the airport, saying “we are standing at the heart of the Tripoli international airport.”
Hifter’s offensive on Tripoli could plunge the oil-rich country into another spasm of violence, possibly the worst since the 2011 civil war that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country is governed by rival authorities: The internationally backed government in Tripoli and the government in the east, which Hifter is aligned with.
Fayez Sarraj, chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya, said his government had offered concessions to Hifter “to avoid bloodshed and to end divisions” and was surprised by Hifter’s order to take the capital.
“We were stabbed in the back,” he said Saturday in televised comments, adding that his forces would confront Hifter’s troops with “force and determination.”