Clashes between armed groups in Libyan capital kill 13 people

At least 13 people have died in fighting that broke out overnight between armed groups in Tripoli, emergency services said on Friday, in the latest act of violence in the Libyan capital in months of rising political tensions.

The shooting was still heard early Friday morning in eastern Tripoli after it first erupted after midnight in a park area, spreading terror among Tripoli residents heading there to cool off after hot summer days.

Dozens of people were forced to seek refuge on the Tripoli University campus and a nearby medical center.

As a result of the fighting, “13 people were killed, including three civilians, including an 11-year-old child, and 30 were injured,” the ambulance service told the Libya al-Ahrar news channel.

The clashes took place between two armed groups with great influence in the west of the war-torn country: Al-Radaa forces and the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade.

Several sources said the detention by one group of a fighter belonging to another sparked fighting that engulfed several districts of the capital.

On Friday, another group called the 444th Brigade intervened to broker a truce, deploying its forces into the buffer zone before they too came under heavy fire, a photographer told AFP.

But Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeiba’s spokesman, Mohamed Hamouda, tweeted on Friday afternoon that Al-Radaa, which also acts as a police force, has “committed to ceasing hostilities” at the request of Dbeiba and the presidential council.

Government media reported that Dbeiba ousted Interior Minister Khaled Mazen and replaced him with Local Government Minister Badr Eddin al-Toumi.

– First civilian casualties since 2020 –

Tensions in Libya have been rising for months as the two prime ministers vie for power, raising fears of renewed conflict two years after a landmark truce ended a devastating attempt by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar to seize Tripoli by force.

The dead are the first civilian casualties from fighting in Tripoli since the 2020 ceasefire.

As a result of the fighting, hundreds of women attending weddings in the area were trapped, including Maysa bin Issa and her sisters.

“Thank God, an ambulance came and saved us, otherwise we would have been stuck in a wedding hall in Ain Zar, miles from our home in the city center,” she said.

“It was really scary because of the bombing and shooting.”

Local resident Mokhtar al-Mahmoudi said he and his family spent the night in the basement. “Our children are still terrified,” he said.

Malek al-Badri said he used his phone to avoid major roads and find his way to his mother’s house.

“Tripoli will never have peace again as long as all these armed groups are here,” he said.

Dozens of students were trapped in university dormitories until they were rescued, Osama Ali of the ambulance service told Al-Ahrar.

Libya has been gripped by insecurity since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed dictator Muamer Gaddafi in 2011, leaving a power vacuum that armed groups have been trying to fill for years.

Both factions fighting this week are nominally loyal to Abdulhamid Dbeiba’s government of national unity, appointed last year as part of a UN-backed peace process to end more than a decade of violence in oil-rich Libya.

Dbeiba refused to cede power to Fathi Bashaga, who was appointed prime minister in February by parliament based in eastern Libya after he struck a pact with Haftar.

The fighting forced the closure of the only operating metropolitan Mitiga airport until further notice.

The United Nations Mission in Libya UNSMIL said it had received reports of civilian casualties and requested an investigation.

“Any action that endangers the lives of civilians is unacceptable,” the tweet said, urging “all Libyans to do their utmost to maintain the country’s fragile stability during this challenging time.”