Armed clashes set Libya's Tripoli ablaze

Updated: 2014-07-29 09:31


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Armed clashes set Libya's Tripoli ablaze

Plumes of smoke rise in the sky after a rocket hit a fuel storage tank near the airport road in Tripoli, during clashes between rival militias July 28, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

TRIPOLI - A huge fire at an oil depot in Libya's capital Tripoli set part of the city ablaze on Monday after being hit by warring militia's rocket attacks.

The fire, which started on Sunday after heavy bombings by the rival militias, raged through the Bregal oil depot and ignited two fuel tanks. According to the Interior Ministry, the first fuel tank on fire contains some six million liters of oil.

Witnesses said that dark columns of smoke could be seen miles away, and that Islamist fighters and pro-secular militia were still vying for Tripoli's international airport nearby despite the fire.

The Libyan government has ordered all citizens within a three- km radius of the oil depot to evacuate immediately, and called on the militias to cease fire immediately to avoid a "humanitarian and environmental disaster."

Firefighters have been battling to put out the fire, but constant crossfire between the militants and spreading fire forced them to leave the area.

The recent battle between Islamist fighters and pro-secular militia around Tripoli International Airport has killed at least 97 people and wounded 404 more, paralyzing most of the air traffic in the country. Although rounds of negotiation have been held and a truce was reached earlier this month, the rival groups were still combating in the city.

Meanwhile in the second largest city of Benghazi, armed clashes have staged on a daily basis since renegade General Khalifa Haftar launched his so-called anti-terrorism Operation Dignity in May to constantly pound Islamist militants.

China, France, Germany, Netherlands, Britain and the United States have already told their citizens to leave Libya due to the severe security conditions there. Many feared the conflicts in major cities might slide into a full-fledged civil war, which can be even bloodier than the 2011 turmoil that toppled Libya's former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

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