TRIPOLI, Libya -- A group of disgruntled militiamen took over the country's main airport yesterday, storming it with heavy machine guns and armored vehicles and forcing airport authorities to divert flights, a security official said.

Mohammed el-Gharyani of the Tripoli Security Committee said militiamen from the city of Tarhouna occupied the airport runway. Flights were diverted to Metiga air base in the city's center.

He said the militiamen were angry over the arrest Sunday of their commander, Abu Elija.

Tunis Air announced it had canceled two flights to Tripoli in response to the violence.

Tarhouna, in central Libya, was widely seen as a favorite of deposed ruler Moammar Gadhafi. Its dominant tribe, also called Tarhouna, held many positions in the military under Gadhafi.

Tribal rivalries have swept Libya since Gadhafi was overthrown last year. Much of the fighting has pitted militias that fought Gadhafi against those who remained loyal to him.

The Tarhouna group has been engaged in sporadic clashes with other militias from cities such as Misrata and Tripoli.

The airport attack came just two weeks before the date of the country's first general elections since 1969, when Gadhafi took over power in a military coup. On June 19, Libyans are scheduled to elect a 200-member assembly to oversee writing a new constitution and form a government. -- AP

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