Gunmen arrested as Libyan forces recapture Tripoli airport

An unidentified armed man walks towards the arrivals hall inside Tripoli's international airport on June 4, 2012 after it was overrun by the al Awfea militia of Libyan ex-rebels who surrounded planes with tanks, grounding all flights following their leader's apparent arrest, according to officials. The official Lana news agency, citing witnesses, confirmed the 'assault' by gunmen who fired into the air and slightly wounded an airport employee, causing panic among travellers.


Gianluigi Guercia

Libyan government forces have recaptured Tripoli Airport after armed militia occupied the runway and grounded flights, Al Jazeera reported.

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Libya's deputy interior minister, Omar al-Khadrawi, told reporters that dozens of gunmen were arrested when authorities regained control of the airport Monday night.

"The authorities have complete control over the airport," Khadrawi said, describing the militia as “saboteurs.”

It is unclear if the government struck a deal with the militia, reportedly members of the al-Awfea Brigade, who had been demanding the release of their commander when they overran the runway with tanks and armored vehicles, the BBC reported.

The al-Awfea Brigade is understood to be from the town of Tarhouna, south-east of Tripoli, and its members say their leader, Colonel Abu Ajila al-Habshi, disappeared two days ago.

A member of the group told Reuters the militia had targeted Tripoli Airport to protest at Habshi's "kidnapping" by Tripoli's security forces.

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Flights in and out of Tripoli are not expected to resume for 24 hours, due to damage to the airport's infrastructure, including a hangar that was reportedly blown up during the stand-off. 

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