Libya: 13 killed as fighting rips through Tripoli

Fighters exchange fire in district where government, international agencies and diplomatic missions are based



AFP
AFP

By Reuters

Published: Fri 22 Jul 2022, 9:20 PM

Rival factions fought each other in Tripoli overnight and into Friday, killing 13 people in the Libyan capital's worst clashes for two years as a political standoff festers.

Fighters exchanged fire in a central district where several government and international agencies, along with diplomatic missions, are based, and clashes spread to the areas of Ain Zara and Asbaa.

The main sides involved were both affiliated to the Presidency Council, a three-person body acting as transitional head of state. They included the RADA force, an Interior Ministry spokesperson said.

Fighters from RADA, one of the most powerful forces in Tripoli, were visible around most central areas on Friday morning, while the main Presidency Council building was empty.

Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity, replaced the interior minister in response to the clashes, his office said.

Tripoli Ambulance and Emergency Services spokesperson Osama Ali said 13 people were confirmed dead and 27 injured. A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said three of the dead were civilians. A witness at a hospital said he had seen six bodies.

The shooting began before midnight and lasted for hours. By midday, the situation was mostly calm in central Tripoli, where some vehicles were burned out and others pocked with bullet holes.

But there were many fighters in the city centre and a Reuters journalist heard further exchanges of fire in Tripoli's southern suburbs, where the telecom company said mobile connections were down due to the unrest.

Flights at Tripoli's main Mitiga airport were stopped for hours, but the authorities there later said they were resuming.

Libya has been teetering on the edge of chaos for months after the eastern-based parliament rejected Dbeibah's government, which was installed through a U.N.-backed process last year, and appointed a rival administration.

ARMED FACTIONS

It was not clear how far Friday's clashes were linked to the wider political problems, but both prime ministers have support from among the armed factions that control territory in the capital and other western Libyan cities.

The parliament-appointed prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, has been unable to move into Tripoli because groups in the capital backing Dbeibah have prevented his entry.

Over recent weeks, political shifts have pointed to a possible realignment among power brokers and armed factions that could prompt renewed fighting.

The biggest protests for years occurred earlier this month in cities across Libya controlled by rival factions, underscoring popular anger over the lack of elections and poor state services.

Afterwards, factions in several cities detained people suspected of involvement, prompting the U.N. Libya mission to express concern on Thursday.

A blockade of oil output by groups aligned with eastern commander Khalifa Haftar had meanwhile cut off funding to Dbeibah's government.

But last week Dbeibah appointed a new state oil company chief, said to be an ally of Haftar, leading to a swift end of the blockade.

That prompted reports of a deal between Haftar and Dbeibah to keep him in power. This week saw a first visit to Tripoli by a senior officer from Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) as part of scheduled talks to maintain a 2020 ceasefire.

Western Libyan armed factions battled Haftar during his assault on the capital from 2019-20 and refuse to accept him having influence in Tripoli. That previously counted against Bashagha but may now also be a problem for Dbeibah.

This week Bashagha visited the key western city of Misrata - the hometown of both him and Dbeibah - for the first time since his appointment by parliament. The move led to mobilisations in the city by groups both backing and opposing him. (Reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Ayman al-Warfali Writing by Angus McDowall Editing by Gareth Jones, Toby Chopra, Peter Graff)


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