Civilians wounded in clashes, blasts in Libyan capital

TRIPOLI (AFP) - Rival Libyan groups exchanged gunfire in the Libyan capital Saturday (Aug 27), wounding civilians and raising fears of an all-out conflict in a country facing a grave political crisis.

With combat continuing, "we are having difficulties moving around", Mr Oussama Ali, spokesman for the Tripoli ambulance service, said on Libya's Al-Ahrar television.

He said there were "injured among civilians", but did not give a number.

Local media reported fatalities but no official toll had been released.

Numerous images on social media purported to show cars burnt-out in the fighting and bullet-riddled buildings.

The fighting broke out in various districts of Tripoli between groups armed with both heavy and light weapons, as two rival governments yet again vie for power in the oil-rich but impoverished North African country.

Gunshots and explosions rang through the darkened streets of Tripoli throughout Friday (Aug 26) night.

The crisis pits groups that back the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU), led by Mr Abdulhamid Dbeibah, against supporters of a rival government led by former interior minister Fathi Bashagha.

According to local media, two influential armed groups faced off against one another in Tripoli, where divisions have deepened among militias on opposing sides of the political divide.

Mr Bashagha was appointed in February by a Parliament elected in 2014 and based in the eastern city of Tobruk, but has since been unable to impose his authority in Tripoli.

Initially ruling out the use of force, the former minister has since hinted that he could resort to armed force.

Last week, he called on "Libyan men of honour" to drop their support for Mr Dbeibah's "obsolete and illegitimate" administration.

Mr Bashagha is supported by eastern-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who launched an unsuccessful offensive on the capital between 2019 and 2020.

Mr Dbeibah - appointed last year as part of a United Nations-backed peace process to end more than a decade of violence in the country - has refused to hand over power before elections.

The UN on Tuesday (Aug 23) voiced "deep concern" over growing tensions between the rival Libyan forces, calling for "immediate" moves to calm the situation.

Last month, the most deadly clashes between rival groups in Tripoli since 2020 left 16 people dead, including a child.

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