U.N. Withdraws Staff From Libya Amid Clashes

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Temporary Pullout Ordered as Militias Fight Over Tripoli Airport and Battle Renegade General’s Forces in Benghazi.

The United Nations said Monday it is withdrawing its staff from Libya temporarily because of deteriorating security after rival militias fought over Tripoli International Airport and a renegade general’s forces continued to battle Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi.

In a statement on its website, the U.N. Support Mission in Libya said the mission had already been reducing its staff in the country over the past week. It added that fighting on Sunday and the airport’s closure prompted the move to withdraw its staffers.

“This is a temporary measure. Staff will return as soon as security conditions permit,” the statement said. “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 undergoing 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 postwar 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 Sunday 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.

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