Tripoli, March 12: The Zintan Brigade led by Mukhtar Al-Akhdar that has been in control of Tripoli International Airport since the . . .[restrict]liberation of the city in August has formally agreed to hand over it to the civil authorities “within a week”. Al-Akhdar signed a letter of commitment on Sunday.
The Minister of Transport Yousef Wahashi has appointed Nagmeddine Ibrahim Al-Rais as director of the airport.
The move follows last week’s conference and agreement in Misrata that all revolutionary brigades must return to their home towns and hand over all ports, airports, border crossings, checkpoints, camps and other properties and assets held by them to state control.
Last month the government set a deadline of Monday, March 5, for the brigades to hand over ports and airport. While brigades in the east of the country met the deadline, those in the west did not.
An earlier NTC order to brigades to return to base and hand over all assets by December 31 was ignored altogether.
Last Thursday, however, on the last day of the Misrata conference, the port and airport there were handed over to the civil authorities as were checkpoints in and out of the city. The following day, the Suq Al-Juma Brigade handed over control of Tripoli’s Mitiga airbase to the Libyan airforce.
It has been reported that the Zintan brigade were unhappy about leaving Tripoli airport but had been ordered to comply with the Misrata agreement by Zintan council. The brigade did so verbally at the Misrata conference but without saying when and there were concerns that this might not translate into action. Earlier this month, the deputy leader of the brigade, Ali Koba, was reported saying that it was unhappy about the plan for members of brigades to join the army or the police. He indicated at the time that that it would not be moving.
Over the past few months there has been considerable rivalry between the Zintan brigade and Tripoli forces. In November, Tripoli’s military commander, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, was detained at the airport by the Zintanis. In December, fighting between Zintan and Tripoli brigades outside the airport left four men dead.
Last Monday, the first anniversary of the establishment of the NTC, among the different demonstrations taking place in Tripoli to mark the event, there were many demanding that both the Zintan and the Misrata brigades leave the capital.
Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelal has issued a warning to brigades that do not comply with the Misrata agreement. At the weekend he said that the government had been very patient with them but that time was running out for them. So too was the government’s patience.
He said that the government was now strong and that it would act “with an iron fist” against any brigade that acted outwith the law.