Shell hits despite cease-fire over Libyan airport

A shell fired by warring Libyan militias hit an oil tank today near the capital`s international airport, despite local officials saying they struck a cease-fire to allow firefighters to battle an out-of-control blaze at its oil depot, an official said.

PTI| Last Updated: Jul 29, 2014, 22:01 PM IST

Cairo: A shell fired by warring Libyan militias hit an oil tank today near the capital`s international airport, despite local officials saying they struck a cease-fire to allow firefighters to battle an out-of-control blaze at its oil depot, an official said.

The cease-fire agreement, reached late yesterday night and mediated by the Tripoli City Council, would mark a rare pause in two weeks of fighting in the capital that`s killed nearly 100 people and wounded 400, health officials say. The battle marks a level of violence unseen there since the downfall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in the country`s 2011 civil war.

However, the shell struck an oil depot tank in Tripoli`s Sedi Bu-Salem district, an official with Libya`s state-run oil corporation said. The tank didn`t catch fire, he said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn`t authorized to brief journalists.

Another 13 fire trucks arrived today to battle the blaze at the oil depot, which has a capacity of 6 million liters. The fire spread to a second depot yesterday afternoon, the government said.

Libya`s interim government has been urging rival groups to stop fighting, warning that the fire could trigger a "humanitarian and environmental disaster" in Tripoli. It appealed for "international help" to extinguish the inferno.

It later said that Italy has agreed to send firefighting airplanes, which the Italian Foreign Ministry denied.

Libyan television stations have called on residents to evacuate areas within a 5-kilometer radius of the airport.

Many Libyan families scrambled to leave. Black smoke continued to billow today over the Tripoli skyline.

The clashes sparked earlier this month forced authorities to shut down the airport after it was devastated in shelling between militias controlling it ever since Gadhafi`s fall, and others who accuse them of being Gadhafi`s loyalists. The armed confrontations prompted many diplomats and foreigners to flee the country, including the US ambassador in Libya and United Nations staff.

Today, a Spanish military plane evacuated 60 people from Libya, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The Spanish ambassador will remain in Tripoli with a reduced support staff.

"Spain will not close its embassy in Tripoli as a show of support for the Libyan transition, its institutions and solidarity with the Libyan people in these times of crisis," the statement said.

The cease-fire in Tripoli comes as Benghazi in the far east has been enduring monthslong battles between Islamist-led militias and forces allied with renegade Gen Khalifa Hifter, who launched a campaign aimed at crushing Islamist extremist militias.