Tripoli - Libyan war planes attacked targets in the restive south on Saturday after gunmen stormed an air force base and the government ordered in ground troops following days of skirmishes between rival tribesmen and militias.
Western powers fear the OPEC producer could slide into further instability as the government struggles to contain heavily-armed militias, tribesmen and Islamists who helped to topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but refuse to disarm.
A lack of border controls and the ineffectiveness of a small army lacking equipment have turned Libya into a weapons smuggling route for al-Qaeda in sub-Saharan countries and also a corridor for Islamist fighters heading to Syria and economic migrants heading to Europe.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan went on national television to announce he had ordered troops to be sent to the south after a group of gunmen entered the Tamahind air force base outside Sabha, 770km south of the capital Tripoli.
Defence Ministry spokesperson Abdul-Raziq al-Shabahi said later that government forces had regained control of the base after air strikes.
"A force was readied, then aircraft moved and took off and dealt with the targets," he told reporters in Tripoli.