Deadly clashes shake Libya’s capital, killing 23 people
Deadly clashes broke out Saturday in Libya’s capital between militias backed by its two rival administrations, portending a return to violence amid a long political stalemate.
At least 23 people were killed and 140 more wounded, the Health Ministry said. It added that 64 families were evacuated from areas around the fighting.
The escalation threatens to shatter the relative calm Libya has enjoyed for most of the last two years. The oil-rich nation plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Moammar Kadafi in 2011.
Among the fatalities was Mustafa Baraka, a comedian known for his social media videos mocking militias and corruption. Baraka died after he was shot in his chest, according to Malek Merset, an emergency services spokesman.
Merset said emergency services were still trying to evacuate wounded people and civilians trapped in the fighting that erupted overnight and continued into Saturday.
This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links.
The Health Ministry said in a statement that hospitals and medical centers in the capital were shelled, and ambulance teams were barred from evacuating civilians, in acts that “amount to war crimes.”
The municipal council of Tripoli blamed the ruling political class for the deteriorating situation in the capital, and urged the international community to “protect civilians in Libya.”
The violence caused widespread panic among Tripoli residents. Video circulated online showed houses, government facilities and vehicles apparently damaged by the fighting. Other video showed militia forces deploying and heavy fire being exchanged across the night sky.
The U.N. mission in Libya said the fighting involved “indiscriminate medium and heavy shelling in civilian-populated neighborhoods” of Tripoli.
The mission called for an immediate cease-fire, and for all parties in Libya to “refrain from using any form of hate speech and incitement to violence.”
The clashes pitted the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade militia, led by Haitham Tajouri, against another militia allied with Abdel-Ghani Kikli, an infamous warlord known as Gheniwa, according to local media. Later Saturday, more militias joined the fighting, which spread in different areas in the capital.
Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah’s government, which is based in Tripoli, said the clashes broke out when one militia fired at another.
The fighting, however, is probably part of an ongoing power struggle between Dbeibah and his rival, Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha, who is operating from the coastal city of Surt.
Both Dbeibah and Bashagha are backed by militias, and the latter was mobilizing in recent weeks to try to enter Tripoli to dislodge his rival.
An attempt in May by Bashagha to install his government in Tripoli triggered clashes that ended with his withdrawal from the capital.
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland urged for de-escalation “before things get worse” and for Libyan parties to agree on an early date for elections.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for the L.A. Times biggest news, features and recommendations in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.