Tunisair plane blocked from taking off by protesters 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
TRIPOLI - About 100 Libyans surrounded a Tunisian passenger aircraft at one of the capital's airports on Saturday, delaying its takeoff in a protest at the government.
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Witnesses told Reuters that about a dozen cars drove out on to the tarmac at Tripoli's Mitiga airport and blocked a Tunisair Airbus 300-20 jet, with passengers on board, from moving.
The incident was the latest sign of lawlessness in Libya, where the interim authority in power since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted, the National Transitional Council (NTC), is struggling to control disparate local interests, many of them backed by armed militias.
The protesters were from the Souq al-Juma district of Tripoli, a
stronghold of anti-Gaddafi sentiment during the uprising against his
They said they wanted the Libyan government to open an
investigation into a clash last week in which several members of the
Souq al-Juma militia were killed.
The clash happened in Bani
Walid, a town southeast of Tripoli which was a pro-Gaddafi bastion and
one of the last places to submit to the new Libyan leadership.
are protesting over the slow action that the NTC is taking over this.
They are putting pressure on the NTC to take action, and make their
message known," said Abdulrazzaq El-Aradi, NTC member for Souq al-Juma.
A spokeswoman for Tunisair said none of the passengers were harmed.
said some of the protesters had tried to board the aircraft but the
captain had shut the door and barred them entry. She said armed men had
said they wanted to check the identity of some injured Libyans on board
A Reuters reporter at Mitiga airport said there was no
sign of violence. A few of the protesters had weapons and wore combat
fatigues, but most of them were civilians.
"This is a peaceful
protest. The plane is intact. The passengers are okay. We do not want to
harm anybody," Hosni Berbesh, dressed in fatigues, said.
the aim of the protest was to "explain to the government that we have a
request, that the government should respond to us".
spokeswoman said the plane later took off with 54 passengers on board.
She said some Libyan passengers had chosen to get off the plane, without