Cairo: The United Nations mission in Libya said today it is withdrawing its staff from Libya "temporarily" because of deteriorating security after deadly militia clashes over control of Tripoli International Airport.
In a statement posted on its official website, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya said that the withdrawal comes after the mission has already been reducing its staff in the country over the past week. It added that fighting yesterday and the airport`s closure prompted the mission to make a full withdrawal of its staffers.
"This is a temporary measure. Staff will return as soon as security conditions permit. The United Nations, which stood by the Libyan people in their revolution in 2011, will not abandon them as they seek to build a democratic state," the statement said.
It added: "The United Nations looks forward to continuing to work with its Libyan partners and hopes to return to Tripoli as soon as possible."
Tripoli is witnessing one of its worst spasms of violence since the ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, as rival militias fight for control of its airport.
The militias, many of which originate from rebel forces that fought Gadhafi, became powerful players in post-war Libya, filling a void left by weak police and a shattered army.
Successive governments have put militias on their payroll in return for maintaining order, but rivalries over control and resources have led to fierce fighting among them and posed a constant challenge to the central government and a hoped-for transition to democracy.
At least six people were killed and 25 injured yesterday in the battle over the airport between rival militias. Civil aviation authorities announced a three-day closure of the airport.
Shells hit airplanes, damaged shuttle buses and airport entrances, and landed in the parking lot, an airport security official said.
Among the planes hit was an Airbus from Libya`s state-owned Afriqiyah Airways worth 200 million dollars, according to the official Facebook page of its sister airline, Libyan Arab Airlines.
It said the crew was transferred to Libya`s third largest city of Misrata to operate international flights from there. Pictures posted on the page showed one of the planes with a large hole in its fuselage.