Tripoli International Airport was seized by an National Transition Council-aligned militia from the city of Tarhouna on June 4th. The militia members were protesting the alleged kidnapping of their commander, one Abu-Ajilah Habshi, who reportedly disappeared on Sunday while traveling along the Tripoli Airport Road.
After holding the airport for several hours and forcing passengers to debark from planes on the runways, a deal was brokered to have the militia withdraw from the airport, and the troops and vehicles left on the same day.
The Tahroun militia organization advanced on the airport after a 24-hour notice demanding Habshi’s release apparently went unheeded (the militia stated it had reason to believe their leader was being held captive in the airport itself). Libya al-Ahrar reports that NTC Chairman Mustafa abd-al-Jalil, along with a delegation from Tahroun, reached an agreement with the militia to withdraw their troops and vehicles from the airport. Earlier, Jalil had been told by the militia to “intervene to reveal the details surrounding the disappearance of chairman of the Tarhunah military council.”
No group has claimed responsibility for Habshi’s disappearance.The NTC blames Qadhafi loyalists for his disappearance, while the Tarhouna militia blames the Tripoli Security Committee.
The standoff, despite ending with the return of the airport to NTC control, is deeply embarrassing for the interim government. Earlier this year, NTC-aligned militiamen from the western town of Zintan had, after some delays, formally handed control of the Tripoli International Airport over to the NTC. The NTC had marked this changing of the guard - following several earlier handovers that broke down (or are still ongoing) - as a major success in asserting its rule over the country.