TRIPOLI: Intense clashes have erupted between rival factions in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, with reports of dozens people killed amid growing concern that a political standoff could prompt renewed conflict.
Clashes occurred early on Friday in the central district near the Radisson Blu hotel, an area where several government and international agencies and diplomatic missions are based, with military vehicles mobilised around Zawiyat al-Dahmani.
Tripoli residents said a man and a child had been killed in that fighting. Local news reports, citing medical sources, later said that five people had been killed.
Osama Ali, a spokesman for Libya’s Ambulance and Emergency Services, said on Friday that casualty figures could rise as reports come in from other hospitals in the area.
The Libyan military’s 444 Brigade intervened to stop the fighting and took up positions in several areas where the clashes took place, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter.
A Presidential Council statement called on both sides to cease hostilities, adding that government and military prosecutors will conduct investigations.
Last month, clashes between two influential militias aligned with rival prime ministers vying for power rocked Tripoli, injuring several people in the process.
Oil-rich Libya has remained in turmoil since 2011 when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown after four decades in power.
The situation has worsened since March when the eastern Tobruk-based House of Representatives appointed a new government led by former interior minister Fathi Bashagha.
Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, leader of the Tripoli-based national unity government that is backed by the United Nations, insists he will only cede authority to a government that comes through an “elected parliament,” raising fears that Libya could slip back into a civil war.
Both prime ministers have support from among the armed factions that control territory in the capital and other western Libyan cities.
Over recent weeks, political shifts have pointed to a possible realignment among power brokers and armed factions that could prompt renewed fighting.
Earlier, the bodies of 20 people who got lost in the Libyan Desert have been found, according to rescuers, who presume the group died of thirst.
The bodies were discovered by a truck driver travelling through the desert and were recovered on Tuesday about 320 kilometres (198 miles) southwest of Kufra and 120km (74 miles) from the border with Chad.
“The driver got lost … and we believe the group died in the desert about 14 days ago since the last call on a mobile phone there was on June 13,” Kufra ambulance chief Ibrahim Belhasan said by phone on Wednesday.
The sparsely populated region regularly sees summer temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
The ambulance service published a video on Facebook showing decomposing bodies in the desert sand near a pick-up truck.
Two of the bodies were Libyans and the others were believed to be migrants from Chad crossing into Libya, Belhasan said.
Since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that removed and killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has emerged as the dominant transit point for people fleeing war and poverty in Africa and parts of the Middle East, hoping for a better life in Europe via the dangerous route across the desert and over the Mediterranean but many die en route, including in the harsh Sahara desert. (Int’l News Desk)