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Flights Diverted As Libyan Militia Surrounds Tripoli Airport

Using tanks and armored vehicles a militia has surrounded the Tripoli international airport in Libya. Commercial flights have been cancelled and some of them were diverted to the city's military airport.

As Reuters reports, the militia made the move to protest what it said was the kidnapping of one of its leaders. It's not clear whether the federal government — the National Transitional Council — arrested the leader. It's also not clear whether he's being held at the airport.

Reuters adds:

"'The situation in the airport is very tense and tanks are surrounding the buildings. No one is allowed into the building,' said the official, who declined to be named.

"The incident is the latest in a series of events that highlighted the inability of the weak central government to assert its authority on a myriad of armed militias that have refused to give up their weapons after the popular revolution which ousted Moammar Gadhafi last August.

"Last month, one person was killed and several wounded when militiamen protesting against the Libyan prime minister started shooting."

The BBC reports that the situation is "chaotic."

"The brigade has placed a pick-up truck mounted with an anti-aircraft gun underneath each of the six planes on the tarmac," the BBC's Rana Jawad reported. "Several trucks carrying Libyan National Army personnel had arrived at the scene."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.