Libya warring militias agree truce at main airport

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Powerful militias battling for the Libyan capital’s airport have agreed a ceasefire, Tripoli said Friday, after the government sought UN help to stop the country from becoming a “failed state”.

Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdelaziz asked the UN Security Council to dispatch experts to train Libya’s defence and police forces to ensure they can protect oil fields, airports and other vital sites.

The call came amid a surge of violence in the country with clashes between rival militias sparking fears of all-out civil war.

Tripoli’s mayor and leaders of battling militia said overnight that a truce had been agreed and that control of the international airport would be handed over to neutral forces.

The airport has been closed since fighting erupted on Sunday, when gunmen from the city of Misrata launched an attack on the facility, which has for the past three years been held by liberal, fighters from Zintan, southwest of the capital.

Mokhtar Lakhdar, a commander for the Zintan forces, said that a truce had been agreed under the authority of the city’s government council.

Dozens of rockets have been fired at the airport, badly damaging planes as well as the main terminal, but Lakhdar confirmed this had halted Thursday night.

Ex-rebel fighters from Zintan and Misrata, east of Tripoli, both played a key role in the Nato-backed uprising that toppled dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

But they have become fierce rivals in the deadly power struggle between armed groups that followed and which is now wracking the North African country.

Ahmed Hadeia, a spokesperson for the rival Misrata fighters, said the ceasefire was “only around the airport” and did not include other sites controlled by the Zintan forces.