Gunfire Heard in Tripoli Amid Clashes Over Government Power Struggle

The violence followed the armed arrival of Libya's appointed prime minister Fathi Bashagha, although he has since left the city, according to his office

People line up to vote during parliamentary elections in Tripoli, Lebanon, Saturday.
People line up to vote during parliamentary elections in Tripoli, Lebanon, Saturday.Credit: Bilal Hussein /AP

Libya's parliament-appointed prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, has left the capital Tripoli on Tuesday, his office said, hours after his attempt to enter the city led to clashes between rival factions that are likely to fuel more tensions between the two administrations.

Bashagha had arrived overnight, accompanied by an armed faction, to try to take control of the government from a rival administration that has refused to cede power.

Reuters journalists in Tripoli could hear the sound of gunfire, and al-Hadath television published video clips showing what it said was fighting downtown and in the port.

Bashagha’s office earlier said in a terse statement that he arrived in Tripoli with a number of ministers from his Cabinet. There was no immediate comment from the government of embattled Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who is based in Tripoli.

Fathi Bashagha delivers a speech after submitting his candidacy papers for the presidential election in Tripoli, Libya in November.Credit: REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed

The UN special adviser on Libya, Stephanie Williams, called for calm and for rival parties to refrain from taking part in the clashes.

“Conflict cannot be solved with violence, but with dialogue and mediation,” she tweeted, adding that the United Nations is ready to host all parties “in helping Libya find a genuine, consensual way forward towards stability and elections.”

Bashagha, a former interior minister, was named prime minister by the country’s east-based parliament in February after the collapse of a UN-brokered agreement to hold an election in December, which occurred amid arguments over the rules among major factions and prominent candidates. Lawmakers have argued that Dbeibah’s mandate expired after the failure to hold elections, which was a major blow to international efforts to end decades of chaos in Libya.

But Dbeibah, a wealthy businessman, has refused to step down, insisting he will hand over power only to an elected government. The result has been a standoff between two rival governments that both claim legitimacy and are each backed by armed factions in Tripoli and western Libya, raising fears that two years of relative peace may soon end and opening a new chapter in Libya's long-running political impasse after tentative steps toward unity in the past year.

Both prime ministers hail from the powerful western city of Misrata.

Over the weekend, rival militias also clashed in Tripoli’s neighborhood of Janzour. No casualties were reported but local authorities said there was damage to infrastructure, including a power plant.

Libya has had little security since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gadhafi, and it split in 2014 between rival eastern and western factions before a 2020 truce that brought the country under a fragile unity government.

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