Rival Libyan groups exchanged gunfire in the Libyan capital overnight Friday-Saturday, an AFP correspondent said, raising fears of all-out conflict in a country facing a grave political crisis.
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, the AFP correspondent said, adding that there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The crisis pits groups that back the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU), led by 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.
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 more recently hinted that he could resort to armed conflict.
Last week, he called on “Libyan men of honour” to drop their support for Dbeibah’s “obsolete and illegitimate” administration.
Bashagha is supported by eastern-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who launched an unsuccessful offensive on the capital between 2019 and 2020.
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 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.