Middle East

27 dead after days of clashes near Libya capital: ministry

At least 27 people have been killed and nearly 100 wounded in several days of fighting between rival militias near the Libyan capital, the health ministry said on Thursday.

The clashes broke out on Monday in suburbs south of Tripoli and continued into Wednesday evening after a truce collapsed, despite an appeal by the United Nations for calm
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The clashes came to an end on Thursday after a ceasefire agreement announced by officials from western areas, but it was unclear whether the two rival camps would continue to respect it.

The health ministry said at least 27 people were killed and 91 were wounded in the fighting, most of them civilians.

Fayez al-Sarraj, the leader of the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), has tasked forces from western and central regions of Libya with ensuring the rivals adhere to the ceasefire.

These forces are meant to guarantee the withdrawal of the two rival camps from front lines and ensure normal life returns in the districts affected by the fighting.

The proposed pacifying forces consist mainly of powerful armed groups from the cities of Misrata and Zintan in the west, which are technically under the GNAs defense ministry.

Under the orders of Sarraj, who heads the Libyan army, these military units will be allowed to operate in the capital and its environs only until September 30, when they must leave.

The Misrata and Zintan militias controlled the Libyan capital from the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 until 2014, when a coalition of militias mainly from Misrata seized the city.

This weeks fighting has pitted Tripoli militias loyal to the GNA against the so-called 7th Brigade.

This unit is from the town of Tarhuna southeast of the capital and is supposed to operate under the GNAs defence ministry.

In a televised speech, Sarraj said on Thursday that the 7th Brigade had been “dissolved” since April, before calling on the rival camps to respect the ceasefire.

In a joint statement, the embassies of Britain, France, Italy and the United States on Thursday said they were “deeply concerned about the recent clashes in and around Tripoli that are destabilizing the situation”.

“Pursuing political aims through violence will only further exacerbate the suffering of the population of Libya, and threaten broader stability”, the statement said.

“Those who undermine Libyas peace, security and stability will be held accountable.”

The Libyan capital has been at the center of a battle for influence between armed groups since Kadhafis fall.

Successive transitional authorities, including the GNA, have been unable to form an functioning army or regular security forces and have been forced to rely on militias to keep the city safe.

In mid-2017, pro-GNA militias neutralized several rival groups in Tripoli. Since then, clashes have been rare.

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Last Update: Thursday, 30 August 2018 KSA 20:45 – GMT 17:45

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