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Libya: Dozens die in armed forces clash

Libya: Dozens die
Smoke rises during clashes between rival militias in Tripoli, Libya, on Aug. 15, 2023.

A violent clash erupted in Tripoli on Monday night when a commander of the 444 Brigade was captured by the Special Deterrence Force (SDF) at a Tripoli airport.

The 444 Brigade’s senior commander, Mahmoud Hamza, was reportedly taken by the rival faction earlier that day.

The Tripoli-based Emergency Medicine and Support Center, which provides medical assistance during wars and disasters, said on Wednesday morning that the conflict between the two powerful armed groups in Tripoli had resulted in 27 deaths and more than 100 injuries.

The situation calmed down after the commander was freed on Tuesday evening.

The fighting was the worst to hit Tripoli this year and broke the fragile peace that had lasted for months in Libya’s capital city.

The Health Ministry appealed to the conflicting sides on Tuesday to let ambulance and emergency teams access the affected areas, mainly in the south of the city, and to send blood to nearby hospitals.

The U.N. mission in Libya expressed its concern over “the security incidents and developments” in a statement on Tuesday and urged an immediate halt to the ongoing clashes.

Libya’s rival governments also denounced the violence in separate statements on Tuesday.

The House of Representatives, which is based in the eastern city of Benghazi, accused its rival, the Tripoli-based government, of being responsible for the violence.

A ceasefire agreement in 2020 has brought some stability to Libya but deep divisions remain a constant threat to it.

The U.S. and British embassies in Libya issued statements expressing their worries over the violence.

The United States called for an “immediate de-escalation in order to sustain recent Libyan gains toward stability and elections,” according to the American Embassy.

Libya has been split since 2014 between two competing administrations in the east and the west, each backed by different militias and foreign powers.

The North African country has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising overthrew and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya: Dozens die
Smoke rises during clashes between rival militias in Tripoli, Libya, on Aug. 15, 2023.

Ever since, the country has been torn apart by different factions, militias, and foreign powers, leading to violence, instability, displacement, and human rights abuses.

The conflict has also damaged the country’s oil industry, economy, and regional stability.

The main players in the conflict are the UN- and Turkey-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli; and the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar and supported by Egypt, Russia, and the UAE.

The LNA holds most of the east and south of Libya, while the GNA controls the west.

There are also various local and tribal forces, as well as extremist groups such as ISIL and al-Qaeda, that operate in different parts of Libya.

The conflict has had a terrible impact on the lives of millions of Libyans and migrants who are stuck in the country.

The UN says that more than 1.3 million people need humanitarian aid, such as food, water, health care, shelter, and protection.

More than 400,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, while thousands have escaped to neighboring countries or tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.

Many migrants and refugees face abuse, exploitation, detention, and trafficking by smugglers and armed groups.

The conflict has also resulted in widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, such as random attacks on civilians and civilian facilities, extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, sexual violence, and recruitment of child soldiers.

The international community has been trying to find a political solution to the crisis through various initiatives and talks.

In October 2020, the warring parties signed a permanent ceasefire agreement that opened the way for a new interim government to lead the country to national elections by December 2021.

However, the electoral process has been hampered by disputes over the legal framework, the eligibility of candidates, and the order of the polls.

The elections were ultimately called off on December 23, 2021, after a parliamentary committee declared them impossible to hold as planned.

This triggered a new power struggle between the GNA and the HoR-aligned LNA, which appointed a new prime minister without consulting the other parties.

The situation remains tense and unclear, as both sides claim legitimacy and reject each other.