Al Jazeera : A bout of fighting in Libya’s capital has laid bare the fragility of an armed cartel that had brought a veneer of stability to the city and encouraged the gradual return of foreign diplomats and plans for elections in December. Major battles have become rarer in Tripoli since last year as a handful of armed factions aligned with the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) consolidated their control.
But the ascent of four or five “super militias” has created resentment among groups excluded from the capital and from access to the spoils of Libya’s informal economy.
That has heightened the risk of conflict and made the challenge of disbanding militias or integrating them into regular security forces more complex, diplomats and analysts say.
Fresh fighting erupted in the Libyan capital on Wednesday after the collapse of a truce, a witness and military source said, after the UN called for calm. A military officer with forces loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord said there had been intermittent fighting in Tripoli’s southern suburbs. Eyewitnesses said the two warring sides have returned to fighting and started mobilizing fighters and vehicles in areas in southern Tripoli.
“A combined force from the ministry of defense and (ministry of) interior of the GNA led an offensive against positions of the 7th Brigade,” he said. The militia had been trying to advance along the road to Tripoli’s international airport which has largely been closed since fighting in 2014.
The 7th Brigade supposedly operates under the GNA’s defense ministry. But on Monday Interior Minister Abdessalam Ashour said security forces were fighting the militia, which hails from the town of Tarhuna southeast of Tripoli. Those clashes left at least five people dead and 33 wounded, according to a health ministry toll, before a truce was reached in the evening. Fighting resumed on Wednesday in the Salaheddin neighborhood of southern Tripoli, a resident said. He reported machine guns and anti-aircraft guns being fired, which could be heard over the phone.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has condemned the escalation of violence in Tripoli for the third day in a row and called in a statement for an immediate ceasefire on all fronts.
“The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in Libya, Dr. Ghassan Salame, has reached out to the concerned Libyan parties to immediately cease all hostilities, resume ceasefire talks and find longer term solutions to ensure the safety and security of the capital, its institutions and its residents.” UNSMIL’s statement explains.
According to the UNSMIL, Salame also was in contact with UN Security Council members, as well as regional and international actors with influence on Libyan parties to push for calm, call for the end the military mobilization and come to the negotiating table.
Of additional impact was the appearance of a leader of Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) Operation Salah Badi on Tuesday saying he had joined the clashes commanding a force headed to Tripoli “to end humiliation of Tripoli’s residents.”
“Libya has become a foreign agenda war scene driven by traitors and agents of those countries and the Libyan youths. We will take revenge for Tripoli mothers who have been humiliated at the doors of banks due to the corrupted people.” Badi said in a video last night.
With the joining of Badi’s Al-Sumood brigade, they seized Naqliya camp and Airport Road before they had withdrawn and Brigade 301 of the Presidential Council seized it.
It is not clear who is in control of those locations now.
Meanwhile, the Air Force of the Presidential Council’s government allegedly carried an air attack on locations and depots for the seventh brigade in Tarhouna, whose residents were angry enough to take to the streets deploring the airstrike and accusing Al-Sirraj and his government of treason.
The seventh brigade was also defeated in Yarmouk camp in Tripoli and reports said the brigade pulled out away from Qaser Bengashir district southward as Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade advanced in that area, before seventh brigade made a comeback and regain control on all these locations.
Currently, the capital’s southern districts are still the battlefield for hit-and-run clashes with eyes remaining wide open for what would happen on both the field and official levels to end such hindrance to whatever hopes Libyans have for an upcoming election.