Clashes between supporters of Libya’s rival governments have killed at least 32 people, the health ministry said in a new toll on Sunday, after a battle that raised fears of a major new conflict.
Armed groups exchanged gunfire that damaged several hospitals and set buildings on fire starting Friday evening, the worst fighting in the Libyan capital since a 2020 ceasefire.
An AFP correspondent said an alert had calmed down by Saturday evening.
The fight follows months of tension between supporters of Abdulhamid Dwibah and Fathi Bashagher, whose rival administrations are fighting for control of the North African country that has seen more than a decade of violence since a 2011 uprising.
The Debeibah administration, installed in the capital as part of a UN-led peace process after the end of the last major war in 2020, has so far blocked Bashagha from taking office there, arguing that the next administration should be the product of elections.
Bashagha was appointed by Libya’s eastern-based parliament earlier this year and is backed by powerful eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar, whose 2019 attempt to seize the capital by force turned into a year-long civil war.
Bashagha, a former interior minister, initially denied using violence to seize power in Tripoli but has since hinted he might use force.
After a Western-backed uprising toppled and killed dictator Moamer Gaddafi in 2011, Libya plunged into chaos, with myriad armed groups and foreign powers moving to fill the power vacuum.
Some armed groups seen as neutral in the recent crisis moved into Dwibah this weekend to push back Bashagha’s second attempt to enter the capital.
Both sides blamed each other on Saturday while world powers appealed for calm.
The UN’s Libya mission called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities”, citing “ongoing armed clashes with indiscriminate medium and heavy shelling of civilian-populated neighborhoods”.
On Saturday evening, Dibebah posted a video of himself surrounded by bodyguards and greeting fighters who support his administration.
Dbayber’s government of national unity said fighting broke out after negotiations to avoid bloodshed in the western city.
Bashagha denied such talks and accused Debeiba’s “illegitimate” administration of “clinging to power”.
Local media reported later Saturday that a group of pro-Basagha militiamen who were making their way to the capital from Misrata later turned back.
Analyst Wolfram Lacher wrote on Twitter that Libya’s transitional coalitions are “a never-ending story”.
“The armed groups that found themselves on the same side in yesterday’s fighting in Tripoli will tomorrow clash over turf, location and budget,” he wrote.
“Parties that were pro-Day yesterday will challenge him tomorrow.”
— end —