Clashes in Libya Capital Kill 9

Clashes in Libya Capital Kill 9

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) -- Heavy clashes among rival Libyan militias in Tripoli on Monday left at least nine people dead and forced the capital's only functioning airport to shut down, officials said.

Health Ministry spokesman Omar Matouq said the death toll from Monday's fighting is expected to rise. Among those killed was an airline employee who was returning home after the airport was shut down.

An airport official told The Associated Press that staffers were evacuated from Matiga airport and that five flights have been canceled. He said state-run airlines received information that the clashes have caused damage to some of the passenger jets inside the airport, but there was no way to confirm the reports.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The Special Deterrent Force, a militia which controls the airport, was fighting a rival militia led by local strongman Bashir al-Baqara. Both are allied with the internationally recognized government in Tripoli. A rival government and parliament rule in Libya's east, but across the country real power is held by a dizzying array of armed groups.

The Presidency Council — one of the three ruling bodies in Tripoli — said al-Baqara's men wanted to release suspected al-Qaida and Islamic State members held at a prison near the airport that is also run by the Special Deterrent Force. The government has ordered al-Baqara's men to hand over their weapons and disband.

Special Deterrent Force spokesman Ahmed bin Salem said four of his men were killed. He said the situation is now under control, and that a number of the attackers were arrested while trying to storm the prison. On its Facebook page, the force says the prison houses 2,500 detainees.

Libya was plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.