Published: Publish Date – 12:48 AM, Sun – 28 Aug 22
Cairo: Deadly clashes erupted in the Libyan capital on Saturday between militias backed by its two rival administrations, marking a return to violence amid a long political standoff. The health ministry said at least 13 civilians were killed and more than 95 were injured.
It said 64 families were evacuated from the areas around the battle. The escalation has threatened a relative calm in Libya over the past two years. The oil-rich nation fell into chaos after following nato-backed insurgency that toppled and killed long-time autocrat Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. Among the fatal incidents was Mustafa Baraka, a comedian who used to mock the militia and corruption for his social media videos.
According to emergency services spokesman Malek Mersett, 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 that lasted overnight and continued until Saturday.
Hospitals and medical centers in the capital were shelled, and ambulance teams were stopped from evacuating civilians, which “amount to war crimes”, the health ministry said in a statement. Tripoli’s city council blamed the ruling political class for the deteriorating situation in the capital, and urged the international community to “protect civilians in Libya”. The violence caused widespread panic among the residents of Tripoli.
Footage circulated online showed homes, government facilities and vehicles damaged by the fighting. Other footage showed militia forces being deployed and heavy exchange of fire in the night sky. The UN mission in Libya said the fighting involved “indiscriminate medium and heavy shelling on civilian populated areas” of Tripoli. The mission called for an immediate ceasefire, and for all parties in Libya to “abstain from any form of hate speech and incitement to violence”.
According to local media, the Brigade militia of Tripoli revolutionaries led by Haitham Tajouri fought against another militia allied with Abdel-Ghani al-Kikli, known as “Gheniva”.
Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dabiba’s government, which is based in Tripoli, claimed that the conflict began when one militia opened fire on another. The fight, however, is part of an ongoing power struggle between Dabiba and his rival Prime Minister Fathi Bashaga, who is operating from the coastal city of Sirte.
Both Dabiba and Bashagha are backed by militias, and the latter have been trying to enter Tripoli in recent weeks to oust their rival. An attempt in May by Bashaga to establish his own government in Tripoli triggered a conflict that ended with his withdrawal from the capital. US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland urged “before things get bad” and for Libyan parties to agree on an early date for the election.