Libyan Authorities Retake Tripoli Airport From Armed Militia

The country is still beset by rival militias and still has no elected government to speak of

Libyan authorities fought back against disgruntled militiamen who took control of the country’s main airport for hours on Monday armed with heavy machine guns and armored vehicles, Libya’s interim leader said.

The head of the country’s National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, said the airport was attacked and held for several hours because it is “a strategic facility,” and vowed it would not fall out of “government” control again.

“The attack on the airport is dangerous, but we dealt with it as a government, military and revolutionaries with intelligence,” he said.

The incident illustrates Libya’s fragile situation, as armed militias left over from the NATO-backed regime change of Muammar Gadhafi continue to engage in rivalries and factionalism, refusing to give up their arms and completely recognize the interim government.

NATO leaders, and President Obama in particular, spoke of forthcoming democracy after the NATO-backed militias captured and killed Gadhafi and his government disintegrated. But the “government” is still a largely unelected ruling tribal militia itself, which is already talking about postponing elections.

The country’s first open elections are due to be held this month for a 200-member assembly, which will oversee the writing of a new constitution attempt to form a government. But Libyan official Sghair Majeri told Al Jazeera that “holding elections by June 19 is a mission impossible” due to candidate approval process and insecurity throughout the country.

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