These clashes are on an unprecedented scale in Tripoli since the failure in June 2020 of the attempt by Mr. Haftar, the strongman of the East, to seize the capital by force. And they are symptomatic of the chaos that has plagued Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011.
The clashes between rival militias began overnight after the arrival in Tripoli (west) of the Prime Minister designated by the Parliament sitting in the east of the country, Fathi Bachagha, accompanied by several ministers, according to an AFP correspondent on square.
After several hours of fighting, the press service of Mr. Bachagha indicated in a press release that the latter and his ministers had “left Tripoli to preserve the security (…) of the citizens”.
Mr. Bachagha, invested by Parliament in March, intended by this unexpected coup to take office in Tripoli despite the refusal of the current executive, led by Abdelhamid Dbeibah, to cede power before the holding of elections.
The ballot originally scheduled for December has been postponed indefinitely.
The Dbeibah government denounced in a press release a “desperate attempt to sow fear and disorder among the inhabitants”, urging the international community to “condemn these actions”.
It was not immediately known if these fights had made casualties.
– “Very serious” –
In the Tripoli region, the two rival camps have the support of armed groups that are still very influential in the west of the country, but with shifting allegiances. “Al Nawasi”, a major militia in the capital, lent its support to Mr. Bachagha.
According to Libyan media, the departure of Mr. Bachagha from the capital was decided during a mediation led by an army brigade loyal to the government of Tripoli to put an end to the fighting.
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said he was “very worried”, calling for respect for the ceasefire to “avoid the outbreak of a new wave of violence” in Libya.
The UN secretary general’s special adviser on Libya, Stephanie Williams, called for “restraint”, emphasizing “on the absolute necessity of refraining from any provocative action”.
The United States said it was “very concerned” by the armed clashes in Tripoli.
And the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell spoke of a situation “that has become very serious in recent hours”. “Sooner or later, when there are two governments, they clash.”
After the guns fell silent, Mr. Dbeibah took a tour of the capital, according to images broadcast by televisions showing him near charred cars and damaged buildings.
According to his government, the security forces will “hunt down” all those involved in this “cowardly act”.
– Oil blockade –
Since 2011, Libya, a vast country of seven million people, has been plagued by divisions between competing institutions in East and West and by insecurity.
Oil production, the country’s main source of income, has been hostage to political divisions, with a wave of forced closures of oil sites in recent weeks.
Considered to be close to the Eastern camp, the groups behind the blockages are demanding the transfer of power to Mr. Bachagha as well as a better distribution of oil revenues.
Between 2014 and 2021, the country had already found itself with two rival governments in the East and West.
But this time around, Mr Bachagha, himself a heavyweight in the West, has opted to forge alliances with both Khalifa Haftar and the East-based Speaker of Parliament, Aguila Saleh, on behalf of of national reconciliation.