Tripoli- Fighting has broken out between rival militias near the international airport in the Libyan capital, Tripoli today.

Anti-Islamist rebels from the Zintan region who control the airport have been attacked by a rival group trying to take over the area. Flights to and from the airport have been suspended amid reports of heavy explosions and gunfire. Zintan fighters have been resisting Islamist attempts to grab power since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

They took control of the airport and surrounding areas, 30km (18 miles) south of Tripoli, shortly after the colonel's 42-year-rule came to an end. It is not clear who the attacking rebels are, but Libyan media report they call themselves the Stability and Security Force. Armed vehicles massed in the area overnight before fighting broke out at dawn, witnesses told CNN. Officials in Tripoli, say there have recently been threats from various militias wanting to seize the airport area.

Libyan leaders have been struggling to bring stability to the country, which is home to a complex web of armed groups that emerged from the aftermath of the civil war.

Analysts say the rebels are seen by Libyans as both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, in the absence of an effective army, they provide security across much of the country and protect the borders.

On the other, they have been accused of human rights abuses, unlawful detention and of taking the law into their own hands.