March 24, 2023

CAIRO — Deadly clashes between militias backed by two rival governments broke out in the Libyan capital on Saturday, heralding a return to violence in a prolonged political stalemate.

At least 23 people were killed and 140 injured, the health ministry said. It added that 64 families were evacuated from the area surrounding the fighting.

The escalation threatens to disrupt the relative calm that Libya has enjoyed for most of the past two years. The oil-rich country was plunged into chaos in 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Among the dead was Mustafa Baraka, a comedian known for his social media videos mocking militias and corruption. Emergency services spokesman Malek Merset said Baraka died after being shot in the chest.

Mersett said emergency services were still trying to evacuate the wounded and civilians trapped in the fighting, which broke out overnight and continued into Saturday night.

The shelling of hospitals and medical centres in the capital and ambulance teams prohibited from evacuating civilians “constitute war crimes”, the health ministry said in a statement.

Tripoli’s city council blamed the deteriorating situation in the capital on the ruling political class and urged the international community to “protect civilians in Libya”.

The violence caused widespread panic among Tripoli residents. Videos circulating online showed homes, government facilities and vehicles apparently damaged in the fighting. Other footage showed militia units being deployed and firefighting in the night sky.

The UN mission in Libya said the fighting involved “indiscriminate moderate and heavy shelling of civilian areas” in Tripoli.

The mission called for an immediate ceasefire and called on all parties in Libya to “refrain from any form of hate speech and incitement to violence”.

The Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade militia led by Haytham Tajouri and another Abdel-Ghani al-Kikli, a notorious warlord known as “Gheniwa”, According to local media reports. Later on Saturday, more militias joined the fighting that spread across different parts of the capital.

The Tripoli-based government of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah claimed the clashes erupted when one militia opened fire on another.

However, the fight is likely to be part of an ongoing power struggle between Dbeibah and his rival Prime Minister Fathy Bashagha, who operates in the coastal city of Sirte.

Both Dbeibah and Bashagha are supported by militias, which have mobilized in recent weeks to try to drive into Tripoli to expel his opponents.

Basaga’s attempt in May to establish a government in Tripoli sparked clashes that culminated in his withdrawal from the capital.

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Richard Nolan urged de-escalation “before things get worse” and urged Libyan parties to agree on early elections.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *