TRIPOLI (AFP) – A night of clashes between militias in the heart of a residential district of the Libyan capital Tripoli raised fears yesterday of escalating violence in the conflict-riven country.
The intense fighting that erupted on Friday between two armed groups that back rival prime ministers left at least one person dead and caused significant material damage, a security source told AFP.
Gunfire and explosions rang out across Tripoli during the fighting, described by one resident as possibly the “heaviest” seen in the city for over a decade.
It was the latest violence to rock the country after a failed bid last month by former interior minister Fathi Bashagha – voted in as prime minister by Parliament – to take power from interim premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah.
Footage aired by Libyan media showed civilians, including women pushing children in prams, fleeing on busy streets in a built-up area after being caught in the crossfire.
The fighting broke out in Souk Talat neighbourhood and pitted two militias – Al-Nawasi, considered close to Bashagha, and the pro-Dbeibah Stability Support Apparatus – against one another, said the security source.
It came amid tensions following the arrest of fighters from both militias, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The clashes stopped after mediation by a neutral military force, which deployed a number of its armoured vehicles” in the area of the fighting, he added. A video released overnight showed Dbeibah ordering members of the force to intervene to secure the area and protect civilians.
The source said there had been no civilian casualties, but cited “material damage”.