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Militiamen Take Over Tripoli Airport

Flights Diverted To Libyan Air Base

A group of Libyan militiamen have take over the country's main airport in Tripoli, which has resulted in flights being diverted to the air base at Metiga in the city's center. The soldiers were armed with heavy machine guns and armored vehicles occupying the runway forcing the diversions.

USA Today relays an Associated Press report that Mohammed el-Gharyani of Tripoli Security Committee said the militiamen came from the city of Tarhouna, and were angry over the arrest of their commander Abu Elija yesterday. Tarhouna was seen as a favorite of former ruler Moammar Gadhafi. The dominant tribe, also called Tarhouna, held many positions in the Libyan military under Gadhafi. The residents of the city are viewed with suspicion by former rebels.

Fighting between rival tribes has swept Libya since Gadhafi was overthrown last year. Most of the fighting is now between militias that fought against Gadhafi and those remaining loyal to his regime. The group from Tarhouna has been involved in sporadic skirmishes with other militias from Misrata and Tripoli. The commander Elija was apprehended in Tripoli but the circumstances surrounding his arrest are not clear.

The airport attack comes only two weeks before the country's first general election since 1969 when Gadhafi took over in a military coup. On June 19, the election is scheduled to be held to elect a 200-member assembly that will oversee the writing of a new constitution and formation of government.

FMI: www.state.gov

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