Libya militia clashes kill 16: health ministry

Libya militia clashes kill 16: health ministry
The death toll is set to climb in Libya's capital as armed clashes between rival groups continue
3 min read
The clashes were between two armed groups with major clout in the west of the war-torn country [Getty]

At least 16 people were killed and 52 wounded in fighting between armed groups in Tripoli, the health ministry said Saturday, following the latest politically driven violence to hit the Libyan capital.

The fighting began on Thursday night and extended into Friday afternoon. The toll revises up an earlier figure of 13, including three civilians, provided by the ambulance service.

The clashes were between two armed groups with major clout in the west of the war-torn country: the Al-Radaa force and the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade.

Several sources said one group's detention of a fighter belonging to the other had sparked the fighting, which extended to several districts of the capital.

On Friday, another group called the 444 Brigade intervened to mediate a truce, deploying its own forces in a buffer zone before they too came under heavy fire, an AFP photographer reported.

"All the wounded received medical care in hospitals" in Tripoli, the health ministry said in a statement.

It did not provide an update on how many civilians were among the dead.

Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah's government suspended interior minister Khaled Mazen after the fighting, replacing him on an interim basis with Bader Eddine al-Toumi, the local government minister.

Mitiga, the capital's sole functioning airport, was closed for several hours on Friday before it reopened late in the day.

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

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

The dead were the first civilian casualties of fighting in Tripoli since the 2020 truce.

Both groups involved in this week's fighting are nominally loyal to Dbeibah's Government of National Unity, appointed last year as part of a United Nations-backed peace process.

Dbeibah has refused to cede power to Fathi Bashagha, named in February as prime minister by a parliament based in Libya's east after he made a pact with Haftar.