HomeLatest NewsA cautious calm prevails in the capital Tripoli after armed clashes between...

A cautious calm prevails in the capital Tripoli after armed clashes between rival groups kill 32, injure 159.

Flights resumed and shops reopened in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Sunday after clashes between rival government supporters killed at least 32 people and raised fears of major new conflict.

Armed groups exchanged gunfire that damaged several hospitals and set fire to buildings overnight Friday into Saturday, the worst fighting in the Libyan capital since a 2020 ceasefire.

A cautiously calm Saturday evening had set in, a AFP Correspondents reported, and the Ministry of Health said on Sunday morning that 32 people were killed and 159 injured during the clashes.

The fighting comes after months of rising tensions between supporters of Abdulhamid Dwibah and Fathi Bashagher, whose rival administrations are fighting for control of the oil-rich North African country, which has seen more than a decade of violence since a 2011 uprising.

Rockets “were flying over our heads in the middle of residential buildings,” said Mohammad Abaya, 38, who lives in an area of ​​the capital that saw the fighting. “We were terrified,” said another resident, retiree Lotfi Ben Rajab. “A rocket landed in my neighbor’s living room but didn’t explode, thank God”.

Calls for calm

Dabibah’s administration was installed in Tripoli in the west of the country as part of a UN-led peace process last year. He has so far prevented Bashagha from taking over there, arguing that the next administration should result in elections.

Bashagha was appointed by Libya’s eastern-based parliament earlier this year. He is backed by powerful eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar, whose 2019 attempt to seize the capital by force turned into a year-long conflict. A former interior minister, he initially denied using violence to seize power in Tripoli but later indicated he might use force.

After a NATO-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 returned to backing the duo 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”, condemning the “indiscriminate medium and heavy shelling of civilian populated areas”.

On Saturday evening, Dibebah posted a video of himself surrounded by bodyguards and greeting fighters who support his administration. “We will not leave this country in the hands of scoundrels,” he said in a video posted on his Twitter account titled “End of Aggression”. On Sunday, he said, he will form two committees to survey the damage in the conflict.

‘The Neverending Story’

Dbayber’s government of national unity said the fighting began after negotiations to avoid bloodshed in Tripoli. Bashagha has denied such talks and accused Debeiba’s “illegitimate” administration of “clinging to power”.

Local media reported late Saturday that a group of pro-Basagha militiamen who were making their way to the capital from Misrata turned back. The war forced several airlines to cancel flights to and from the capital. But flights resumed and shops reopened on Sunday morning, and educational institutions said student exams would go ahead on Monday.

On Saturday evening, Dibeiba ordered the arrest of anyone involved in the “attack on Tripoli”, both civilian and military. A pro-GNU force from Misrata – the hometown of both Dabeibah and Bashagha – said on Sunday it had arrested several “assassins”.

But analysts said the crisis was far from resolved, with many armed groups controlled by coalitions relocating the capital. Analyst Wolfram Lacher called it a “never-ending story” on Twitter.

“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-Islamic yesterday will challenge him tomorrow.”

(By Hamza Mekauer)

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