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U.N. condemns fresh clashes in Tripoli

This picture taken on August 16, 2014 shows Filipino workers arriving at Ninoy Aquino International Airpor in Manila after they flew home from Libya at the government's expense. AFP PHOTO / Jay DIRECTO

TRIPOLI: The U.N. condemned a new round of fighting between militias around Tripoli International Airport, saying the clashes were undermining Libya’s political process.

Since mid-July, Libya has been rocked by fierce and deadly fighting between militias that has prompted an exodus of foreign nationals from the oil-rich North African country.

The skirmishes have centered around Tripoli, where nationalist militiamen are battling pro-Islamist groups, and in second city Benghazi where a renegade army general is fighting Islamists. The new clashes in Tripoli raged Friday and Saturday, forcing hundreds of people to flee, residents said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The confrontation between nationalist militiamen from Zintan and pro-Islamists from Misrata focused on a bridge leading to the capital’s airport, which is controlled by the Zintan forces, residents added.

Grad missiles and artillery were used in two days of battle which subsided Sunday after an unconfirmed claim by the Misrata fighters that they had seized the bridge and an army barracks. State news agency Lana said that around 1,000 families had fled the Tripoli fighting and were taken in by local officials in the town of Tarhuna, south of the capital.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) condemned the clashes and urged both parties to observe a cease-fire.

It said the two days of violence had “inflicted casualties among civilians, forced them out of their homes and caused damage to property.”

UNSMIL “warns that the continued fighting poses a serious threat to Libya’s political process, and to the security and stability of the country,” a statement said.

Libyan MPs, who have been meeting in the eastern city of Tobruk to avoid the unrest, appealed Wednesday for international intervention to protect civilians across the country.

Since the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, the interim authorities have failed to establish order and security in a country prone to anarchy and deadly violence.

They have been unable to restrain a large number of militias formed by ex-rebels who fought Gadhafi and still hold sway across Libya.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 18, 2014, on page 10.

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