As a truce took hold, Libyan media sites claimed that the dead toll from Tripoli’s bloodiest armed battles in a year rose to 55 and the number of injured to 146.
The powerful 444 Brigade and the Special Deterrence Force, two of the numerous armed organizations vying for control since the toppling of longtime tyrant Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, engaged in combat on Monday night and continued into Tuesday.
Al-Ahrar TV in Libya, quoting Malek Mersit, a spokesman for the Emergency Medical Center, reported the latest death toll on Wednesday. Previously, medical personnel had recorded 106 injured and 27 dead during the two days of combat in the capital.
32 people lost their lives and 159 were injured in Tripoli in August of last year during clashes between the two rival administrations of split Libya, each of which vies for control by forming varying alliances with the combatants on the ground.
Since the NATO-backed uprising that deposed Gaddafi, Libya has been embroiled in a stop-start battle for more than ten years.
The United Nations had expressed optimism that postponed elections would take place this year after a period of relative stability, and the most recent fighting prompted pleas for calm on a global scale.
According to a representative of the interior ministry, fighting broke out after the rival Special Deterrence Force detained Colonel Mahmoud Hamza, commander of the 444 Brigade, on Monday.
A deal had been reached with Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, leader of the UN-recognized government based in the capital, for Hamza to be handed over to a “neutral party,” the social council in the eastern suburb of Souq al-Jumaa, a stronghold of the Special Deterrence Force, announced late Tuesday.
The council said in a televised statement that a truce would come after the change in command of the military, and the violence ceased late on Tuesday. Both armed organizations support Dbeibah’s administration.
The Emergency Medical Centre said that 234 families in all, as well as numerous medical personnel trapped in the battle while attending to the wounded, were evacuated from front-line locations in the southern suburbs of the capital.
Dbeibah traveled to the southeast neighborhood of Ain Zara, which saw some of the fiercest violence on Tuesday, late on Tuesday and into the early hours of Wednesday. He was accompanied by Interior Minister Emad Trabelsi.
Dbeibah “saw for himself the severity of the damage” while touring the dark alleyways of the crowded neighborhood, according to a statement posted on Facebook by his government’s press office.
He ordered instructions for a damage survey to be conducted so that residents may receive compensation, it continued.
In order to monitor the two sides’ recently agreed truce, the interior ministry set in place a security strategy that would send officials into areas where fighting was taking place.
The sole civilian airport in the capital city of Libya, Mitiga, which is located in an area under the control of the Special Deterrence Force, reopened to commercial flights on Wednesday, according to officials. Misrata, 180 km (112 miles) to the east, had been chosen as the new destination for flights. The two armed factions had engaged in hours-long fighting in Tripoli in May, also following the detention of a member of the 444 Brigade.
The UN mission in Libya stated that it was “following with concern” the deterioration of Tripoli’s security situation and how it was affecting residents. People’s Rights Watch The use of heavy weapons by armed groups in residential areas of the city to resolve disputes has been condemned by Libya scholar Hanan Salah as outrageous.
“Don’t the Libyans who are at risk of these violent episodes deserve more? Nothing will alter unless there are repercussions, she asserted.
Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya expert, claimed that the most recent conflicts demonstrated how the international community has failed to solve the issue of the fighting factions.
“However things turn out, diplomats, politicians, security planners, and peacebuilding experts have wasted the last three years. The militias are even more in control of Tripoli than they were previously, according to Harchaoui.
The 444 Brigade, which is connected to the Libyan defense ministry, is thought to be the most orderly unit in the North African nation. It has influence over many locations, including Tripoli’s southern suburbs.
The powerful, ultra-conservative Special Deterrence Force, led by Abdel Rauf Karah, is in charge of central and eastern Tripoli, the Mitiga air base, the commercial airport, and a prison. It serves as the capital’s police force. Libya is divided between a government in the west supported by the UN and one in the east supported by renegade general Khalifa Haftar.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA