Islamists branded 'terrorists' after fall of Tripoli airport

Black smoke is seen in the area of Tripoli's international airport, on August 20, 2014.

BENGHAZI, Libya - Libya's elected parliament has branded as "terrorists" the Islamist militias which announced their seizure of Tripoli airport after a weeks-long battle and are challenging its legitimacy.

"The groups acting under the names of Fajr Libya (Lbyan Dawn) and Ansar al-Sharia are terrorist groups and outlaws that are rising up against the legitimate powers," parliament said in a statement issued on Saturday night.

The parliament, which sits in Tobruk, 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) east of the capital, said it was determined to deal with the challenge through the regular armed forces.

Fajr Libya is a coalition of Islamist militias, mainly from Misrata, east of the capital, while Ansar al-Sharia, which Washington also brands a terrorist group, controls around 80 per cent of the eastern city of Benghazi.

"These two groups are a legitimate target of the national army, which we strongly support in its war to force them to halt their killings and hand over their arms," MPs said.

Fajr Libya said Saturday it had captured Tripoli's battered international airport from nationalist militiamen.

The announcement came a day after an unidentified warplane raided Islamist positions around the airport, killing 13 fighters, a Fajr Libya spokesman said.

The fall of the airport would be a major defeat for the nationalist fighters from Zintan, southwest of Tripoli, who have held it since the overthrow of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Early on Sunday, Islamist militiamen attacked the Tripoli studios of private television station Al-Assima which supports the Zintan nationalists and kidnapped its crew, the station said.

Al-Assima, in a news bulletin, said equipment was destroyed and the crew went missing.

On the political front, the outgoing provisional General National Congress (GNC), which was dominated by Islamists, was to resume operations at the request of Fajr Libya, despite being superseded by parliament, its spokesman said.

The airport 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the Libyan capital, has been shut since July 13 because of the deadly clashes between the Islamists and the Zintan force.

Fajr Libya on Saturday accused the United Arab Emirates and Egypt of involvement in the Friday night air raid.

The Islamist fighters charged that Libya's provisional government and parliament were "accomplices" to the raid and had lost their legitimacy.

On Sunday, Egypt, whose leadership is fiercely anti-Islamist, denied any role in the air raid.