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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Militias clash in Libyan capital Tripoli

Fighting has broken out in the Libyan capital Tripoli between various militia groups. The Libya Observer describes murky clashes sweeping through the city. There are many competing tweets describing the situation.

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Descriptions of what is happening should be treated with some caution until confirmed. There are several articles however reporting on events already. The Libya Observer reports that there is a heavy presence of tanks and armed vehicles on the streets with both heavy and medium weapons in the areas of Bengashirf, Abu Salim, Sidi Al-Masri and near the Rixos Hotel where those who are part of the recent attempt at a coup from the former Salvation Government are in control. Eyewitnesses said: “Violent clashes between armed groups took place in those areas and the sounds of explosions were heard in there as well, plus there was a thick cloud of smoke above Bab Benghashir and Abu Salim areas, making the residents near the clashes panic.” They added that some houses and stores had been damaged by the clashes but did not know whether there were injuries or deaths from the clashes. Given there are clashes near the Rixos hotel, it would seem that at least some of the clashes are between forces loyal to the UN-brokered Government of National Accord and those loyal to the former Salvation Government. However, sources close to that government claim that they were not involved in the clashes and were simply taking up positions close to their headquarters to secure them.
There are still clashes ongoing and some roads are still closed. Other clashes in the east of the city between the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigades (TRB) and another armed militia that controls the area's military camps is ongoing in the Arada area in eastern Tripoli. The armed group attacked has been involved in murders, banditry, kidnapping and smuggling of illegal immigrants according to the brigades. The brigades claimed that they killed the commander of the militia and three of his fighters. The group is associated with the GNA Central Security Department of the Interior Ministry. Nevertheless, the brigades led by Haitham Al-Tajouri said: “This armed force is a hub for criminal cells and organized murders in Tripoli.” The brigades have taken over buildings they used to control. In August they took over the Libyan intelligence headquarters.
The Libya Herald claims that the clashes are pre-emptive strikes by militias who are loosely associated with the Presidency Council (PC) of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) designed to crush militants loyal to the Grand Mufti Sadek al-Ghariani, Khalifa Ghwell PM of the former Salvation Government and to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The Herald claims a number of civilians have already been killed in the Abu Sleem area. Local militia, led by Abdul al-Kikli, also known as Ghneiwa, were fighting against a number of Misratan and other units who support Ghwell. Seven bodies were taken to a local hospital. Fighting was said to be still going on in the evening.
The Herald also reported clashes around the Rixos hotel complex. It claims that a convoy of the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigades which is allied with RADA (Deterrence) forces led by Abdul Kara was seen to be heading for the complex occupied by the Salvation Government supporters. It was thought that they were aiming to eject those holding the complex but if the Libya Observer is correct, then this never happened.
The TRB has apologized on Facebook to Tripoli citizens but claimed that given the situation there had to be a fight in the city. The TRB has gradually been expanding the area it controls in the city. A unit of RADA headed by Kara, took over the Mahary Radisson Blu hotel that had been occupied by hardliners and also seized the headquarters of another hardline group the 6th Division. The Central Bank of Libya and the foreign affairs ministry appear to have been secured by RADA and the TRB.
Other clashes near the Tripoli International Airport appear to be a completely separate fight between a Misratan unit and one from nearby Wirshefana but this is still not clear. Reports that the Mitiga airport was under attack are apparently untrue but nearby yesterday RADA forces attacked a camp held by Benghazi Defence Brigades allied with Ghwell and Ghariani.
Tension had been rising between groups allied with Ghariani and Ghwell and RADA and its allies, since the murder of Ghariani associate Sheikh Nadir Al-Omran. Ghariani and his allies blamed the murder on a section of RADA. There have been many tweets on the issue. Here is one: "once-united militia coalition consisting of militias supporting political Islam factionalized&fight 4 control" Another claims: Clashes renewed in #Tripoli after few-hours halt. So far today 2 civilians killed, homes + a hospital hit & multiple road blocks #Libya. A third tweet explains:"‏@HtewishM #Tripoli based #Militias takes offensive approach to secure their stronghold inside the city by destroying inside "enemies""


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