Gunmen briefly gain control over Tripoli airport

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By Manju Shukla
Date  4 June 2012

Gunmen have briefly gained control over the Libyan capital Tripoli’s main airport, forcing flights to be diverted to a military airport, security officials say.

On Monday, a militia of former revolutionaries entered the Tripoli International Airport with tanks and armored vehicles, completely blocking its air traffic.

The airport’s flights were cancelled and its incoming flights diverted to Tripoli's Mitiga Airport.

Tripoli Security Committee’s Mohammed el-Gharyani says that the gunmen demanded to know the fate of their leader Abu Oegeila al-Hebeishi who had been arrested earlier.

However, Libyan media says the gunmen left the airport after receiving guarantees that an investigation would be launched into the man’s circumstances.

The militiamen reportedly belong to a group known as the al-Awfea Brigade from the town of Tarhouna.

According to the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) spokesman Mohammed al-Harizy, Colonel al-Hebeishi was kidnapped by unknown armed rebels while travelling between Tarhouna and Tripoli late last night.

The NTC has been in control of Libya since the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi last October.

The council has not been very successful in controlling rival regional militias and tribes, engaged in fighting for power and resources.

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