TRIPOLI, Libya - A rocket hit a fuel storage tank containing 1.5 million gallons of gasoline, triggering a major blaze as rival brigades of former rebels fought for control of Tripoli's main airport. A huge cloud of black smoke billowed across the capital's skyline on Monday and Libya's government asked for international help to try to contain the disaster. A spokesman for the National Oil Company said the blaze was burning "out of control," adding that firefighters had withdrawn from the area.
Foreign governments have looked on powerless as anarchy sweeps across the North African oil producer, three years after NATO bombardment helped topple dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The U.S., United Nations and Turkish embassies have already shut operations after the worst violence since the 2011 uprising. Two weeks of clashes among rival factions killed nearly 160 people in Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi. Since Gadhafi's demise, Libya has struggled to keep its transition to democracy on track, with its parliament deadlocked by infighting among factions and militias often using threats of force against political rivals. Many heavily armed former anti-Gadhafi fighters refuse to hand over weapons and continue to rule the streets.
MAHMUD TURKIA / AFP - Getty Images
Smoke billows from a burning oil depot near Tripoli airport on Monday.
First published July 28 2014, 6:47 AM