Libya airport battle `has killed at least 97`

Two weeks of fighting between militias in Libya`s capital Tripoli have left 97 people dead, as Egypt and western foreign ministries on Sunday urged their citizens to leave amid spiralling violence.

Tripoli: Two weeks of fighting between militias in Libya`s capital Tripoli have left 97 people dead, as Egypt and western foreign ministries on Sunday urged their citizens to leave amid spiralling violence.

Washington evacuated its embassy staff yesterday, with Secretary of State John Kerry warning the mission had faced a "real risk" from fierce fighting between armed groups for control of Tripoli`s airport.

Another 38 people, mostly soldiers, were killed in 24 hours of fighting between the army and Islamists in the eastern city of Benghazi, military and medical officials said today, a further sign of the chaos plaguing the North African nation.

The Tripoli clashes, the most violent since the overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, started with an assault on the airport by a coalition of groups, mainly Islamists, which has since been backed by fighters from third city Misrata.

The attackers are battling to flush out fellow former rebels from the hill town of Zintan, southwest of Tripoli, who have controlled the airport for the past three years.

The health ministry said today that the violence had killed 97 people, a toll based on casualty reports from eight public hospitals in the city and its suburbs.

More than 400 people were wounded.

Fighting was still raging, with explosions heard from the city from early morning as militiamen battled around the airport.

Egypt`s foreign ministry said a rocket hit a house in Tripoli yesterday, killing 23 people, including several Egyptians.

"There are 23 people dead after a Grad rocket fell on a house in Tripoli. Some of them are Egyptians, but we don`t know how many," ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told.

Cairo called on "all Egyptian nationals in Tripoli and Benghazi to immediately leave and save themselves from this chaotic internal fighting".

The foreign ministry statement said they should seek "safer areas in Libya or head to the Libya-Tunisia border".

There were an estimated 1.5 million Egyptians in Libya before Kadhafi`s ouster. About two-thirds left during the war but many returned in 2012.

Also today, a British embassy convoy was fired on in a suspected attempted carjacking in western Tripoli. There were no casualties, a spokesman for London`s mission in Libya said.

"Shots were fired at our vehicles but they managed to drive on and leave the area," Bob Phillipson said.

The violence prompted Berlin and London to join Washington in urging their citizens to leave the country as soon as possible, after the US pulled out its diplomatic staff under air cover yesterday.

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