Long forgotten in Western mainstream media, Libya has suddenly come back into headlines as a small civil war is erupting within areas under control of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.
Scores of people have been killed and wounded amidst intensifying clashes in the Libyan capital as rival factions vie for control of the city.
Notably, the clashes have involved the shelling of residential areas in southern sections of Tripoli, street-to-street fighting, and tanks in the streets, reminiscent of the 2011 war which eventually led to a NATO air campaign and forcible removal and assassination of Libya’s longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Al-Jazeera reports Monday’s escalating violence which began over the weekend, and which has resulted in a declared state of emergency being throughout the capital:
At least four people have been killed and seven others wounded in clashes that broke out between rival armed groups in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, as they attempt to take control of the city.
The health ministry declared a state of emergency on Monday, according to local media, after the Sunday evening clashes continued to escalate.
The fighting erupted between local militias and al-Kani tribal fighters from Tarhouna, southeast of Tripoli, who are sending reinforcements to the country’s north.
Local and international reports confirm that both sides of the fighting are loyal to the UN and internationally backed GNA.
By the end of the day, the Associated Press reported at least 27 people wounded, according the Libyan Health Ministry.
And further according to the AP: The United Nations Support Mission in Libya has voiced concerns over “the use of indiscriminate fire and heavy weapons in densely populated residential areas.”
Footage of ongoing clashes in Tripoli published by The Libyan Observer on Monday:
The English language UK-based Libyan Express described the scene of Monday’s fighting based on eyewitnesses:
Heavy weapons, including artillery, have been used in the fighting, according to witnesses. Residential areas have been hit by what seems to be random shelling and several families have had to evacuate their homes.
Roads were blocked, while tanks and armoured vehicles were seen at several places across the city.
Since the NATO-backed overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has remained split between rival parliaments and governments in the east and west, with militias and tribes lining up behind each, resulting in fierce periodic clashes.
A factory in Wadi Al-Rabee hit. Civilian homes hit. More civilian casualties reported during ongoing clashes in #Tripoli. Heavy shootings can still be heard in Ainzara area #Libya pic.twitter.com/d7yszlunUX
— Nadia Ramadan (@NadiaR_LY) August 27, 2018
Perhaps the most significant of these warring militias is Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, which controls much of eastern Libya.
Haftar is reportedly poised to make a move on Libya’s vital “oil crescent region” while bolstering his forces with Chadian mercenaries, according to local reports.
ISIS also maintains a scattered presence in various parts of the country, claiming responsibility for a deadly attack on a security checkpoint as recently as this weekend in the western part of the country. Six soldiers loyal to the GNA were reportedly killed in that attack.
Meanwhile the GNA is trying to bring its own factions to heel after days of violence increasingly impacting densely populated residential areas, yet seems helpless to act.
“We warn these gangs and outlawed groups that have terrorised civilians and residents; there is no space for such lawlessness and chaos,” the GNA’s Presidential Council said in a statement. “We have given orders to the interior ministry to counter these attacks,” the statement said.
Though the recently “liberated” Libya has remained conflict-prone after NATO and US forces promised an “Arab Spring”-style “blossoming of democracy” — things have clearly only gone from worse to worse as the capital now inches toward full blown civil war.
Welcome to the “new” Libya… where the US and UN recognized government is at war with itself.