Clashes erupt in Libyan capital, amid fears of a return to civil war

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Rival groups exchanged gunfire in the Libyan capital, Tripoli overnight Friday and into Saturday, raising fears of all-out conflict in the country which is struggling to end a grave political crisis.

The fighting reportedly broke out in various districts of Tripoli between groups armed with both heavy and light weapons, as two rival governments yet again vie for power in the oil-rich but impoverished North African country.

Gunshots and explosions rang through the darkened streets of Tripoli overnight. At least one person is believed to have been killed and several civilians injured.

The crisis pits groups that back the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity – led by Abdulhamid Dbeibah – against supporters of a rival government led by former interior minister Fathi Bashagha.

Deepening divisions

According to local media, two influential armed groups faced off against one another in the Libyan capital, where divisions have deepened among militia on opposing sides of the political divide.

Bashagha was appointed in February by a parliament elected in 2014 and based in the eastern city of Tobruk, but has since been unable to impose his authority in Tripoli.

Initially ruling out the use of force, the former minister has more recently hinted that he could resort to armed conflict.

Last week, he called on "Libyan men of honour" to drop their support for Dbeibah's "obsolete and illegitimate" administration.

UN calls for calm

Bashagha is supported by eastern-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who launched an unsuccessful offensive on the capital between 2019 and 2020.

Dbeibah – appointed last year as part of a United Nations-backed peace process to end more than a decade of violence in the country – has refused to hand over power before elections.

On Tuesday the United Nations voiced "deep concern" over growing tensions between the rival Libyan forces, calling for "immediate" moves to calm the situation.

In July, the most deadly clashes between rival groups in Tripoli since 2020 left 16 people dead, including a child.