Rival militias battle over Tripoli amid pending UN envoy
Heavy fighting has broken out between rival militia groups in the Libyan capital of Tripoli shortly after the new UN envoy announced plans to visit the country soon for ceasefire negotiations.
According to reports, the warring sides exchanged gunfire and pounded each other’s positions in Tripoli using Grad rockets and artillery guns on Saturday.
The latest instance of violence occurred hours after Bernardino Leon, the newly-appointed UN special envoy to Libya, said he planned to make a visit to Tripoli “as early as next week” to mediate a ceasefire between the conflicting armed groups.
The diplomat will serve as the new head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
Ex-rebel fighters from Zintan and Misrata have been engaged in heavy battles in the southern parts of the Libyan capital, forcing many families from their homes.
The two groups played a key role in the uprising that toppled the country’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
On August 14, Libya’s newly elected parliament asked the United Nations for a military intervention to protect civilians amid relentless clashes. The legislative body also voted to dissolve rival militias, giving them an ultimatum to join the military and police by the end of 2014.
However, following the parliament’s vote, thousands of Libyans staged demonstrations nationwide to express their dissatisfaction with the plea for foreign a military intervention in the North African state.
Nearly three years after Gaddafi’s fall, Libya is still grappling with rising insecurity as the country has been witnessing numerous clashes between government forces and rival militant groups that refuse to lay down arms despite efforts by the central government to impose law and order.