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Armed guards force six-hour airport closure in Libya's Benghazi

Source: Reuters - Tue, 18 Feb 2014 13:51 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds airport reopens, minister quote)

BENGHAZI, Libya, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Security guards forced Benghazi airport in eastern Libya to close for six hours on Tuesday to demand back wages as well as an investigation into the crash of a helicopter which took off from the airport last week, officials said.

Members of the armed unit in charge of protecting the Benina airport blocked the runway and prevented staff from entering the passenger terminals, according to an airport official who said he was in contact with the group.

The guards said they had not received their salaries for several months, the official said, and also wanted full disclosure into the circumstances of the helicopter crash.

It was not immediately clear what their concerns were.

Authorities are still searching for the bodies of the five people who were on board the helicopter after its wreckage was found near es-Sider port on Sunday, Culture Minister Habib al-Amin told a televised news conference on Tuesday.

The protesters allowed the airport to reopen after officials promised to look into their demands and get back to them within two days, the airport official said.

The government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan is struggling to control armed militias who helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and have retained their weapons to make financial and political demands.

Most oil exporting ports in the east have been closed since the summer when they were seized by armed protesters seeking a greater share of oil revenues and political autonomy. (Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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