Discuss as:

'Total confusion': Libyan militia surrounds, cuts off Tripoli airport

A Libyan armed brigade withdrew from Tripoli's international airport Monday, after surrounding it and forcing flights to be diverted to the capital's military airport, Al Jazeera reported.

An official told Reuters that the militia, called al-Awfea Brigade from the town of Tarhouna, 50 miles southeast of Tripoli, was demanding the release of one of their leaders, who they said had disappeared last night.


Armed with heavy weapons, the militiamen caused panic among travelers.

"It is total confusion. Everyone is fleeing. Several armored vehicles and tanks are positioned on the tarmac, blocking traffic," an official at the airport told press agency AFP.

"Cars mounted with anti-aircraft guns and armed men are surrounding the aircraft and preventing them from moving," another official told the AFP, adding that some passengers were forced to leave their planes.

Local tribal leaders and officials traveled to the airport to attempt to negotiate a peaceful resolution, a source told NBC News. It was not clear whether airport employs were being held hostage, the source said. 

The ruling National Transitional Council spokesman Mohammed al-Harizy said the Awfea head, Col. Abu Oegeila al-Hebeishi was kidnapped by unknown armed rebels while traveling between Tarhouna and Tripoli late last night. 

Photojournalist Guy Martin was badly injured while capturing the events of the Arab Spring. As Libya marks one year since the beginning of the country's uprising, Martin reflects on life on the frontline.

Reuters contributed to this report.

More world news from msnbc.com and NBC News:

Follow us on Twitter: @msnbc_world