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9 killed in militia clashes in Libyan capital

#killed #militia #clashes #Libyan #capital

At least nine people were killed in heavy clashes between militias in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Thursday night, rescue services said.

Emergency services updated an earlier toll and told Al-Ahrar Television that one child was among the nine dead and that 25 other people – including civilians – were injured, some seriously.

Tensions have been rising for months as two prime ministers vie for power in the North African country, raising fears of renewed conflict two years after a landmark ceasefire ended a ruinous attempt by eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar to take Tripoli by force .

According to media reports, the latest fighting began with an exchange of fire late Thursday in Ain Zara, a densely populated area in eastern Tripoli, between the Al Radaa force and the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade.

It later spread to other areas and locked 60 students in dormitories until they were rescued, Osama Ali of the emergency services told Al-Ahrar, a news channel.

Hundreds of women attending wedding ceremonies in Fornaj district were also trapped.

“We spent the night in the basement. Our children were terrified,” a resident, Mokhtar al-Mahmoudi, told AFP.

Both groups involved in the fighting are nominally loyal to Abdulhamid Dbeibah’s national unity government, appointed last year as part of a UN-backed peace process to end more than a decade of violence in oil-rich Libya.

Dbeibah has refused to cede power to Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister by a parliament in eastern Libya in February after striking a pact with Haftar.

In mid-May, Bashagha attempted to take office in the capital but sparked clashes between armed groups supporting him and those supporting Dbeibah.

In early July, he told the AFP news agency that he still intended to enter Tripoli “in the coming days”.

One person died in clashes on June 10 involving different militias than this time, a security source said.

But the latest fighting was the first in months to claim civilian casualties in the capital.

Images posted to social media showed dozens of vehicles abandoned with their doors open in the middle of the road by drivers fleeing the violence.

The unrest forced Libyan Airlines and another airline, Alamia, to divert flights from Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport to Misrata, some 200 kilometers east of the capital.

Libya has been gripped by insecurity since a NATO-backed insurgency toppled and killed dictator Moamer Gaddafi in 2011, leaving a power vacuum that armed groups have been struggling to fill for years.

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