Published on Jun 4, 2012
The international airport of the Libyan capital Tripoli is closed and gunfire has been reported.
Z Mhirsi, one of the founders of Tunisia Live, is currently near the airport. He said that he could see "large clouds of dark smoke coming from an area near the control tower," and that all flights had been redirected to the military airport of Mitiga.
He further reported that hundreds of armed men from the town of Tarhuna occupied the runway with dozens of armed pickup trucks, forcing passengers off planes.
"Government police have left the area and the Tarhuna [militia] occupies the airport totally," he said.
Reuters were also reporting that buildings at the airport were surrounded by tanks and no one was being allowed in or out.
They reported the Al-Awfea Brigade, from the town of Tarhuna had seized the airport in retaliation for the arrest of one of their leaders, Abu Ajila Al Habshi, who they alleged disappeared two nights ago.
The official Libyan news agency reported that armed people stormed the runway, shooting their weapons in the air, before forcing passengers off planes. They cited eyewitnesses describing scenes of panic and terror inside the airport.
According to Mhirsi, the group made a statement claiming that, "the faithful took the guns of the security guards and occupied the airport."
Mhirsi said that according to reports there had been gunshots but no deaths. However he claimed that "NTC military reinforcements are coming and a battle might take place in the coming hours."
Later reports say that the airport is currently calm but it is unclear whether the situation has been resolved.
A spokesperson from Tunisair said that they had cancelled their flights to and from Tripoli until further notice.
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