Libyan general claims to have seized control of Tripoli International Airport

Libyan general claims to have seized control of Tripoli International Airport

The rival militias, which are affiliated with a UN-backed government in Tripoli, said they had also carried out airstrikes, slowing Hifter's advance.

They posted photos of troops apparently inside the airport, saying "we are standing at the heart of the Tripoli International Airport".

The internationally-recognised unity government, born out of UN-backed talks, has struggled to assert its control.

Video has now emerged showing U.S. Navy Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft approaching and landing on the beach in the town of Janzour, which is located just a few miles to the west of Tripoli. It is the first public mention that America had troops on Libyan soil. Violence and division have riven Libya since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

The alleged strike came after GNA forces launched air raids on Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) around 50km south of Tripoli on Saturday, reportedly killing one person.

"We have extended our hands towards peace but after the aggression that has taken place on the part of forces belonging to Haftar. he will find nothing but strength and firmness", he said.

Forces have been ordered "to deal with the threat of those striving to destabilise and intimidate civilians", he said, adding those responsible will be brought to justice.

LNA spokesman Ahmed Mesmari had vowed the force would retaliate.

The residents of Tripoli have expressed concern that large-scale fighting could break out and have begun stocking up on food and petrol, according to a report by AFP.

The G7 group of major industrial nations has urged all parties "to immediately halt all military activity".

Russian Federation has also called on parties in the escalating conflict to find an agreement.

Fighters loyal to Hifter clashed with pro-government forces in neighbourhoods south and west of Tripoli, including near the old, now-defunct global airport that Hifter's forces claimed to control.

The United Nations is determined to hold Libya's national conference on possible elections on time despite a surge of fighting in the country's eight-year conflict, the United Nations envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, said on Saturday.

Hope dashed for a political resolution?

The forces allied to Haftar also said they took control of the villages of Qasr ben Ghashir, Wadi al Rabie and Suq al Khamis south of Tripoli, in a statement.

He did not provide details on the number of USA troops that have been withdrawn or how many remain in the country.

Despite the chorus of global concern over his actions, he has had support from powerful outside players, including the UAE and Egypt.

AFRICOM, which led a 2016 bombardment campaign to dislodge Islamic State elements in the country, has maintained a special operations mission inside Libya that assists the government in counterterrorism efforts.

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