The bombardment and closure of Tripoli international airport over the past three days served as yet another confirmation that Libyan militia groups enjoy freedom of action, unencumbered by either law or government forces.

The fresh round of fighting broke out early Sunday morning when a coalition of Islamist militia groups along with another militia group from Misrata, located 193km east of the capital, attacked a rival militia group from Zintan, a small but powerful town in Libya’s western mountains located 145km southwest of the capital, over control of Tripoli’s international airport.

Since the 2011 uprising that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, Tripoli international airport has been under the control of the Zintan militia group. Pictures posted on several social media platforms show the Zintan militias trenched inside the airport setting up a makeshift field clinic in the airport lobby.

Many Libyans wonder aloud which neighbouring country would tolerate armed bands launching artillery at their main airport, undisturbed by security forces. “It’s incredible,” said Mohammed, a waiter at a downtown coffee bar. “These guys (militias) go where they want, do what they want.”