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Oil tanker catches fire amid clashes in Libyan capital, government appeals for help

  • b4e4a2c428c2fc1d5a0f6a706700b840.jpg

    FILE - In this Sunday, July 13, 2014 file image made from video by The Associated Press, smoke rises from the direction of Tripoli airport in Tripoli, Libya. The United States shut down its embassy in Libya on Saturday, July 26, 2014, and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias, the State Department said. (AP Photo/File) (The Associated Press)

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    In this Saturday, July 26, 2014 frame grab from video obtained from a freelance journalist traveling with the Misarata brigade, fighters from the Islamist Misarata brigade fire towards Tripoli airport in an attempt to wrest control from a powerful rival militia, in Tripoli, Libya. The battle for control of Tripoli's international airport began two weeks ago when Islamist-led militias - mostly from the western city of Misrata - launched a surprise assault on the airport, under control of rival militias from the western mountain town of Zintan. Heavy clashes in the country’s restive east between Libyan soldiers loyal to a renegade general and Islamist-led militias killed dozens of people including civilians, health officials said Sunday. On Saturday, the U.S. evacuated its diplomats in Tripoli to neighboring Tunisia and shut its embassy. (AP Photo/AP video) (The Associated Press)

The Libyan government is appealing for "international help" after several oil tankers caught fire amid clashes over the country's international airport in the capital, Tripoli.

In a statement posted on its website on Monday, the interim government says the fighting between rival militias caused the huge blaze, which could trigger a "humanitarian and environmental disaster."

Libyan TV stations are calling on residents to evacuate areas near the airport. Social networking sites posted images of billowing black smoke over Tripoli skyline.

The battle for control of the airport began two weeks ago when Islamist-led militias — mostly from the western city of Misrata — launched a surprise assault on the airport, under control of rival militias from the western mountain town of Zintan.

The fighting has killed dozens of people.