At least nine people have been confirmed dead after two rival combat groups using heavy gunfire and artillery clashed in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Monday.
The Mitiga airport has been forced to suspend all flights till further notice.
The clash was between the Special Deterrence Force (Rada), one of the most powerful groups in the city and a rival group based in Tripoli’s Tajoura neighborhood.
Rada acts as an anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit and controls Mitiga airport and a large prison next to it. It is occasionally targeted by rivals whose members it has arrested.
A health ministry official said the bodies of nine combatants had been brought to a nearby hospital.
Mitiga is a military air base near the center of Tripoli that has been the city’s main airport for civilian flights since the international airport was partly destroyed by fighting in 2014.
The international airport remains out of service.
Rada said the airport had been attacked by an individual called “Bashir ‘the Cow’” and others it had been seeking following their escape from a detention facility controlled by Rada elsewhere in Tripoli.
Rada posted pictures of streets around the airport, showing pick-up trucks mounted with guns and a tank.
Reuters reports that Tripoli has been controlled by a patchwork of armed groups since a 2011 uprising that toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi and led to the splintering of the country.
The factions sometimes clash in turf battles or over killings or detentions of their members, but there has been less open fighting in recent months after several groups aligned with the internationally recognized government, including Rada, consolidated their control of large parts of the capital.