Sat Jan 18, 2014 11:41PM
A general view of the session of Libya's General National Congress (file photo)
A general view of the session of Libya's General National Congress (file photo)

Libya has declared a state of emergency in the country after heavily-armed gunmen temporarily seized a military base in the south.

Libya's General National Congress made the decision during an "extraordinary session" on Saturday after the parliament put the army on alert as gunmen stormed the Tamahind air force base near the southern city of Sebha, where clashes have been raging for several days, an official said.

Defense Ministry spokesman Abdul-Raziq al-Shabahi told reporters in Tripoli that the army had regained control of the base after air strikes.

"A force was readied, then aircraft moved and took off and dealt with the targets," Shabahi said.

He added that the army was pursuing the militants after they fled into the desert.

"The situation in the south ... opened a chance for some criminals ... loyal to the Gaddafi regime to exploit this and to attack the Tamahind air force base," Shabahi said. "We will protect the revolution and Libyan people."

Earlier in the day, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan went on national television to announce he had ordered troops to be sent to the south to end days of clashes between rival militias and tribesmen there.

He told Libyans that a group of gunmen had stormed the air force base outside Sebha, but the army was in control of the city and its civilian airport.

"This confrontation (at the air base) is continuing but in a few hours it will be solved,” he said.

"The troops from Misrata have been commissioned by the government to conduct a national task ... to spread security and stability in the region," Zeidan said.

Libyans rose up against former dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule in February 2011 and deposed him in August 2011. He was slain on October 20 of the same year.
Since 2011, Benghazi has been the scene of numerous attacks and political assassinations amidst increasing power struggle among several militias who fought against Gaddafi during the uprising.

The former rebels refuse to lay down their arms, despite efforts by the central government to impose law and order.

Over the past few months, Tripoli and its suburbs have been hit by violent clashes between rival militias.

In an interview with Press TV last year in October, political commentator Johnny Miller said that Libya is on the verge of becoming a failed state.

Libya “really is close to being a failed state. I mean you have the situation where the government is very, very weak. You have the streets ruled by militias, affiliated with the government, but also acting unilaterally by themselves,” he said.