At least 26 people, including 15 civilians, have been killed in clashes that have rocked the Libyan capital Tripoli this week, amid ongoing political instability in the country.
Hundreds have been injured after clashes erupted between the Seventh Brigade from the town of Tarhouna and two Tripoli-based militias, the Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigades and the Nawasi over the distribution of resources.
Head of the UN-backed Presidential Council Fayez Al-Sarraj said in a televised statement yesterday that he was taken by surprise by the clashes of southern Tripoli, condemning the fighting that had led to the unnecessary deaths of military forces and civilians.
“Civilians must remain outside the circle of the violence which will only end to more destruction and deaths among innocent civilians. The perpetrators will be brought to justice.”
He denied the existence of any unit under the name of the Seventh Brigade under his government’s command, adding that that entity was disbanded in last April.
Yesterday, Al-Sarraj ordered two of the government’s military commanders to oversee a ceasefire in the south of the city, giving them a month to return all forces to their locations and to secure the safety of the residents.
Earlier this week, the Presidential Council’s air force allegedly targeted the Seventh Brigade in the town Tarhouna, prompting protest from residents who were forced to flee their homes to avoid the shelling, and accused the government of treason.
The clashes have warranted a statement from the ambassadors of France, Italy, the UK and the US, who expressed their concern at events and appealed on all parties to exercise restraint, restore calm, stressing that those who undermine Libya’s peace, security and stability will be held accountable.
Since the protests against the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the country has faced chronic instability and violence.
In 2014, Libya split between rival camps with Libyan General Khalifa Haftar gradually emerging as the dominant figure in the east aligned with a regional parliament and government, and opposing the internationally recognised government in the western capital, Tripoli.
Foreign interference has also complicated internal divisions, with Haftar’s forces backed by Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Whilst the UAE publicly supports UN resolutions, its backing of Haftar has been attributed to its desire to bolster the Libyan commander as an alternative to forces in the region thought to be backed by Qatar and Turkey.
The country has also seen the rise of militia units exploiting the lack of control of state institutions, making sudden clashes common in many districts.
In May, Libyan factions agreed to proceed with elections scheduled for December 10, and the UN is leading efforts to stabilise the country in the run up to the vote.