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12 dead, dozens injured as fighting erupts in Libya — Analysis

Officials claim that at least 12 people have been killed in fighting between two militant groups. Nearly 90 others were injured.

Tripoli, Libya’s capital city, was rocked by violence on Saturday night. Witnesses cited in international media claim that the violence has since engulfed the city. According to the Tripoli-based Libyan Health Ministry, violence has killed at least twelve people. “preliminary” figures. The question of whether the civilians killed are combatants is still unsolved. 

At least 87 were also hurt in the fighting, according to the ministry. Pictures and videos posted on social media showed plumes of smoke billowing above the city, as soldiers and military equipment moved along its streets. A number of videos showed homes being damaged by artillery fire. Some videos show blasts and shooting. 

The fighting was described by some media as the most severe in the past two years. However, the conflict-torn country has enjoyed relative peace during this time. Two governments – the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) under Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah and its rival administration led by Fathi Bashagha supported by the Libyan parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk – are still vying for power in the country.

On Saturday, fighting broke out when one of the main Trlipoli-based militants attacked a base that was held by a group backing a different government. During fighting the militants were using both small arms and machine guns, as well mortars. 

According to Reuters, large forces with hundreds of vehicles and a variety of other vehicles have begun entering the city’s streets from various sides. They are believed to be backing Bashagha, who is backed by parliament. It is not clear if Bashagha intends to launch an attack on Libya’s capital city and take power from al-Dbeibah. Each leader has already claimed the other that he disrupted the negotiations expected to bring about an agreement between warring factions.

 

Bashagha has also been supported by Khalifa Hftar (the Libyan east commander), who continues to have close ties with the Tobruk based parliament. Haftar tried to attack Tripoli in 2019, but it was defeated. There was a UN-backed ceasefire, and an agreement to end the conflict. 

UN Libya mission voiced concern about the bombardment of civilian neighborhoods during conflict and demanded an immediate ceasefire. Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 NATO-backed coup ousted the nation’s long-time leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who was later murdered. Since 2014, the nation has been divided between western and eastern governments. UN-backed peace talks envisaged national elections in December 2021. However, the plan was scrapped due to disputes about the voting rights. Tensions have risen again between rival countries following this development. 

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