Clashes in Libya kill 12, spark fears of new war

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Clashes between supporters of rival governments killed at least 12 people on Saturday and damaged six hospitals in the Libyan capital.

Firearms and explosions shook several districts of Tripoli overnight and Saturday, as smoke was seen from damaged buildings.

Early Saturday evening, the Ministry of Health in Tripoli announced a provisional toll of 12 killed and 87 injured from the fighting.

Six hospitals were affected and ambulances were unable to reach the areas affected by the clashes, the ministry said earlier, condemning “war crimes”.

The two rival governments exchanged blame when videos posted online showed burned-out cars and buildings full of bullet holes, as well as a burning mosque.

The UN mission in Libya called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities,” citing “ongoing armed clashes, including indiscriminate medium and heavy shelling in civilian-populated neighborhoods,” which it said had damaged hospitals.

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The US embassy in Libya said it was “very concerned” about the clashes.

According to Lana news agency, actor Mustafa Baraka has been killed in one of the neighborhoods affected by the fighting, sparking anger and grief on social media.

The Government of National Unity (GNU) of Abdulhamid Dbeibah said fighting had broken out after negotiations to prevent bloodshed in the western city collapsed.

The government of Dbeibah, installed as part of a United Nations-led peace process after an earlier round of violence, is being challenged by a rival government led by former interior minister Fathi Bashagha.

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Bashagha, who is backed by the Libyan parliament and eastern-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar, says the GNU’s mandate has expired.

But he has so far failed to get started in Tripoli, as Dbeibah has insisted on handing over power only to an elected government.

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Dbeibah’s government accused Bashagha of “executing his threats” to take Tripoli by force.

Dbeibah’s GNU said negotiations were underway to “hold elections at the end of the year to resolve the political crisis” but that Bashagha “walked away at the last minute”.

Bashagha denied that such talks had taken place and accused the “illegitimate” government of Dbeibah of “clinging to power”.

Emadeddin Badi, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, warned the violence could escalate quickly.

“Urban warfare has its own logic, it is harmful to civilian infrastructure as well as to the people, so even if it is not a long war, this conflict will be very destructive, as we have already seen,” he told TSWT.

He added that the fighting could strengthen Haftar and his loved ones.

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“They will benefit from the divisions in western Libya and have a better bargaining position once the dust settles.”

Bashagha was appointed in February by the parliament, which was elected in 2014 and is based in the eastern city of Tobruk, but has failed to impose his authority in Tripoli.

Initially, the former interior minister ruled out the use of force, but has since hinted that he could use force.

Last week, he called on “Libyan men of honour” to drop their support for the “outdated and illegitimate” government of Dbeibah.

Last month clashes between rival groups in Tripoli left 16 dead, including a child.

It was the deadliest violence to hit the Libyan capital since Haftar’s ill-fated attempt to take it by force in 2019 and 2020.

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