Tripoli International Airport in Libya's capital city was shut down Sunday following violence that left seven people dead and injured 36, and led the United Nations to temporarily move some of its staff out of the country.
According to local reports citing officials, clashes began Sunday between Islamist forces from the Operations Cell of Libyan Revolutionaries, said to be from the western city of Misrata, and the Zintan group, which has controlled the Tripoli airport since the Libyan revolution that deposed Moammar Gadhafi. The country’s civil aviation authority reportedly said that the airport will be closed for at least three days while international carriers including British Airways, Turkish Airlines and EgyptAir cancelled flights to the region, Associated Press reported.
"The operation is led by civil leaders belonging to brigades and troops ... moving without orders and legal cover," Prime Minister Abdulllah al-Thinni’s administration said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The clashes come as rival militias -- who helped overthrow Gadhafi in 2011 and some of whom have been deployed by the government to police parts of the country -- have refused to recognize the current government. The country is currently awaiting the results of parliamentary elections, which were held on June 25, and were overshadowed by accusations of fraud.
Officials said that the airport was struck by rockets followed by heavy gunfire, while government spokesperson Ahmed Lamine called for an “immediate and unconditional” ceasefire.
Jen Psaki, the U.S. State Department spokesperson said, in a statement Saturday: “The United States is deeply concerned by the ongoing violence in Libya and dangerous posturing that could lead to widespread conflict there,” adding: “Libya's future will not be secured through force of arms but only through a political accord and national dialogue that allow the state to ensure security and rule of law throughout the country. We urge all parties to engage in constructive dialogue to resolve their disputes.”
Libyan officials are struggling to maintain peace in the region even as the country has witnessed its oil production drop to 470,000 barrels a day from the 1.4 million barrels that it produced before July 2013, leading to a major shortfall in revenues and a budget crisis, Reuters reported.