HEAVY fighting has broken out between rival militias near the airport of the Libyan capital, with residents reporting explosions and gunfire that forced the suspension of all flights.

Explosions were heard from early morning on the airport road and other parts of Tripoli. Residents said Zintan militiamen who controlled the airport had come under fire and local TV footage suggested the attacking rebels were from the western city of Misratis.

Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with the government unable to control battle-hardened militias who helped to oust Gaddafi but continue to defy state authority.

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Zintan forces have controlled the airport since the ousting of Gaddafi but rebels from both Zintanis and Misratis had been placed on the state pay roll in an unsuccessful attempt to ­integrate both factions into state forces.