American forces operating inside Libya have been temporarily evacuated, the United States military's top commander for Africa said, as clashes between rival militias raging on the capital's outskirts raise the spectre of all-out urban war.
"The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable", said Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, head of US Africa Command.
"U.S. Africa Command has conducted air strikes in Libya against terrorist organizations, however, I reiterate that we have not been requested to provide any military support to our Libyan partners at this time", Becky Farmer, an AFRICOM spokeswoman, said late Friday.
Rival Libyan forces are battling for control of Tripoli's worldwide airport as Khalifa Haftar, the rebel commander, intensifies his campaign to seize the capital and take over the country's government.
Oil-rich Libya has been riven by chaos since the NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival administrations and armed groups vying for power.
Fighting is going on near the former worldwide airport, which the Libyan National Army (LNA) force, led by Khalifa Haftar, controlled by Friday night. Libya will always be a civilian state and the army will protect it and secure the people.' he said. "CRPF contingent is deployed as the Peace keeping force in Tripoli". UN's chief Antonio Guterres, who visited both Tripoli and Tobruk this week, called on both sides to "avoid bloody confrontation".
Forces loyal to the Libyan commander have pressed on with their assault despite global calls to halt hostilities.
Forces loyal to Libya's UN-backed unity government arrive in Tajura, a coastal suburb of the capital Tripoli, on Saturday.
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Local media outlets reported clashes as well in the vicinity of the old Tripoli International Airport, which has been seized by Haftar forces.
Ahmed al-Mesmari, spokesman for the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Hifter, said 14 troops had been killed since Hifter declared the offensive.
The UN Security Council expressed concern on Friday about military activity near Libya's capital Tripoli, warning that it threatens the country's stability, and called on Haftar's LNA troops to halt all military movements.
Residents of Misrata east of Tripoli told Reuters news agency that militias from their city had been sent to defend the capital.
The rival militias, which are affiliated with a UN-backed government in Tripoli, said they had also carried out airstrikes, slowing Hifter's advance. Dozens of militias have poured into Tripoli from cities such as Misurata and Zintan to join forces with pro-government militias to fend off Hifter.
In Libya, the USA backs a United Nations-recognized government.
The alliance said it had named its operation "Ouadi Doum II" after an airbase in northern Chad where Libyan forces commanded by Haftar, then still loyal to Gaddafi, suffered a major reverse at the hands of the French air force in 1986.
It's still unclear how much this is a show of force to bolster Gen Haftar's position or a genuine effort to seize Tripoli.