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Beachgoers killed, flights halted by clashes at Libya airport

Mitiga airport

Tripoli, Libya | AFP | Stray fire from fighting between armed groups that control Libya’s Mitiga airport killed five people at a nearby beach and forced the suspension of flights on Wednesday, authorities said.

The clashes broke out Tuesday between the groups at Mitiga, a former military airbase east of the capital Tripoli, and continued Wednesday morning, witnesses said.

A rocket from the clashes hit a beach across from the airport, killing a child and wounding 25 other people, the health ministry said late Tuesday, before raising the death toll to five.

It was unclear what triggered the fighting.

But an airport official said flights were suspended as the clashes resumed on Wednesday afternoon.

Airport sources said the flights resumed later in the day.

Mitiga is used for flights in and out of Tripoli as the country’s international airport was heavily damaged during fierce fighting in mid-2014 between rival militias vying for control of the capital.

Tripoli is now controlled by the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) but like the rest of the country, it is frequently the scene of fighting between rival armed groups.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 toppling of dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival militias and administrations seeking to control the oil-rich country.

A rival authority based in the country’s east refuses to recognise the GNA since it started working in Tripoli in March last year.

On June 1 forces loyal to the GNA took control of Tripoli International Airport, south of the capital.

The move came after forces loyal to another rival government began relinquishing positions in the south of Tripoli.

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