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Scores dead as militias clash in Libya capital

Tripoli has been gripped by a power struggle between dozens of militias since 2011 [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 May, 2017

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At least 28 people were killed and nearly 130 wounded in fierce clashes on Friday between forces loyal to the UN-backed unity government and rival militiamen.
At least 28 people were killed and nearly 130 wounded in fierce clashes in the Libyan capital on Friday between forces loyal to the UN-backed unity government and rival militiamen, the health ministry said.

Tripoli has been gripped by a power struggle between dozens of militias since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammer Gaddafi in 2011.

Health ministry spokesman Anwar Frajallah was not able to say if civilians were among the casualties, as he gave a provisional toll of 28 dead and 128 wounded.

Hashem Bishr, a security official for the Government of National Accord (GNA), separately gave a toll of 23 loyalist forces killed and more than 29 wounded.

Elsewhere in the capital, an armed group loyal to the GNA attacked a prison holding senior officials of the former regime of Gaddafi including his ex-premier and intelligence chief, a judicial source said.

Guards at al-Hadhba jail were forced to withdraw after the attack, said the source requesting anonymity, adding that two guards were killed.

Inmates there include Gaddafi's last prime minister Baghdadi al-Mahmudi and his former intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi. Both were condemned to death in 2015.

Of the earlier fighting, an official at a Tripoli hospital gave a "provisional" toll of five dead and several wounded, including civilians.

A militia loyal to the unity government, the Abu Slim Deterrence Force, said on its Facebook page that it lost five fighters, but it was unclear if they were included in the hospital toll.

The fighting broke out in residential neighbourhoods.

AFP journalists heard explosions and artillery fire rock the Abu Slim, al-Hadhba and Salaheddin districts in the south of the city.

The UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler issued an appeal for a halt to the fighting.

"Voices of reason should prevail for the benefit of the country," he said. "Political aims must not be pursued through violence. Civilians must be protected."

Witnesses said tanks had been deployed in the fighting.

British ambassador Peter Millett tweeted that he could hear explosions and artillery in south Tripoli.

He condemned "action by these militias who threaten security" ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Saturday in Libya.

Groups hostile to the GNA said they had attacked loyalist forces.

By late afternoon the fighting had subsided, but intermittent gunfire could still be heard in several areas of the capital.

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