Tripoli, Libya – The second day of fighting in Tripoli intensified overnight and continues today, with neither side showing any intention of quelling the latest round of violence. The latest clashes are being reported as the worst outbreak in fighting the capital city and Libya has seen since the height of the civil war that began after Muammar Gaddafi was ousted from power and subsequently killed five years ago. Leaving a power vacuum within Libya to this day. Multiple armed groups or militias have been vying for control of Tripoli since the end of the bloody civil war with the UN-backed interim government, the Government of National Accord, or GNA unable to assert its authority in the region due to the infighting.
The resurgence of fighting could still be bad blood left over from the failed coup d’etat attempt of the United Nations backed Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya, Fayez al Saaraj by Presidential Guard forces loyal to the newly formed National Salvation Government of Libya and its proclaimed Prime Minister, Khalifa al-Ghawil on October 14th 2016. Afterwards fighting broke out between Ghawil loyalists and pro- Saaraj forces. The skirmishes were short-lived as Prime Minister Saaraj remained in control of Tripoli and the GNA while Ghawil moved his newly formed government east to seize the city of Al Khums.
Confirmed reporting out of Tripoli today indicates that Haitham al-Tajouri’s, the commander of one of the larger militia groups, 1st Brigade of the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade (TRB) was enroute to the city early this morning with the intent of linking up and assisting with fighting the anti-GNA militias and has since reported that it has taken over and is in control of Al Nasr Forest district within the city limits. One these groups TRB is supporting is known as the RADA Special Deterrence Forces which is a somewhat newly formed special operations military police force within Tripoli. The SDF was integral part in toppling Qaddafi’s dictatorship and is commanded by Abdul Rauf Kara. The other militia group TRB is aligned with fighting in the city is the Ghneiwa militia commanded by Abdul Ghani al-Kikli. These groups are on conflict with the pro-Ghawil Misrata militias currently fighting for control scattered throughout Tripoli and its surroundings.
SOPREP spoke with a local journalist in Tripoli, Khaled Butou, who is reporting on the fighting in regards to the recent move of the TRB into the city and the current situation in Tripoli. He had this to say: “Today, Haitham al-Tajouri [the commander of the TRB] says the fighting in Tripoli is ‘our anticipatory move’. That means [to me] the Presidential Council and the Government of National Accord initiated this fighting.” Khaled went further by stating that,” [Haitham al-]Tajouri is the commander of 1st Brigade of the Tripoli Revolutionaries Brigade which is under Presidential Council command.” Which could indicate that if this claim is true, then the Chairman of the Presidential Council, Prime Minister Fayez al-Saaraj may have had a hand in the latest outbreak of violence. When asked if this seemed feasible Khaled replied, ” [it] seems so, but its a BIG but, that it [was] ordered by Saaraj and the PC [Presidential Council].”
The situation developing in Libya is yet another in a long line of struggle the country has had in its drive to regain control. The current explosion of violence however shows no sign of slowing down as of yet. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, or UNSMIL, Martin Kobler made this statement “”It is completely unacceptable for armed groups to fight to assert their interest and control, particularly in residential areas, terrorizing the population.” – “We are in contact with the parties on the ground to urge an immediate end to this fighting.” Mr Kobler went on to express his deep concern with the ongoing clashes in Tripoli and stressed the need to implement security arrangements to rid the city of the armed groups in a statement published on the UNSMIL website. The situation is fluid to say the least and as Libya goes into today and the weekend hopes that the fighting will cease are high. Time will tell however if this fight fizzles out or becomes more intense in this highly contested part of the world.
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