Clashes erupted after Fathi Bashagha, the eastern prime minister, tried to place his government in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Tuesday, forcing him to flee the city.
Bashagha’s office said he had arrived in Tripoli with a number of ministers from his government early on Tuesday – three months after his controversial appointment to lead an interim government in the war-torn country.
His arrival would likely fuel more tensions between Libya’s rival administrations. In the morning, local media reported clashes between various militias and rival forces supporting the two sides in central Tripoli and elsewhere in the city.
“We arrived in the capital calmly and safely. The reception was excellent,” Bashagha had said in previous video comments, adding that his government was ready to work with all Libyans, including those who oppose him.
There were no comments on his arrival from Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah’s government, which is based in Tripoli.
Later on Tuesday, Bashagha’s office said he and his ministers were leaving Tripoli “for the safety and security of citizens and to stop the bloodshed.”
The UN Special Adviser to Libya, Stephanie Williams, called for calm and for rival parties to take part in talks to resolve their disputes.
“Conflicts cannot be resolved by force, but by dialogue and mediation,” she tweeted, adding that the UN is ready to host all parties “to help Libya find a genuine, consensual path towards stability and elections.”
Jalel Harchaoui, a Libyan researcher, said the violence that took place during Bashagha’s “brief presence in Tripoli” reflected a “clear failure” of Dbeibah’s rival.
Dbeibah enjoys the support of well-funded armed groups – not only in the capital but also in Misrata – who are staunch opponents of the East-based Putist military commander General Khalifa Haftar, with whom Bashagha is now aligned, Harchaoui said.
Over the weekend, rival militias also clashed in Tripoli’s neighborhood of Janzour. No injuries were reported but local authorities said there was damage to infrastructure, including a power plant.
The UN mission in Libya has condemned the clashes, saying they involved “indiscriminate fire and alleged use of heavy weapons” in the densely populated neighborhood.
The failure to hold the vote was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in Libya. It opened a new chapter in Libya’s protracted political impasse, with rival governments claiming power after tentative steps towards unity over the past year.
The oil-rich country has been plagued by conflicts since the NATO-backed uprising overthrew and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. Libya has for years been divided between rival administrations in the East and West, each with the support of various militias and foreign governments.
The Eastern-based parliament appointed Bashagha in March, but incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah refused to relinquish power, leading to a protracted conflict between the two rival governments.
Bashagha and his cabinet have been unable to enter the capital, Tripoli, where Dbeibah has the support of armed factions, and have repeatedly said he will not try to do so by force.
Bashagha was interior minister in the Tripoli-based government during Libya’s recent conflict before a ceasefire in 2020, and helped it avert a 14-month attack from eastern forces.
But his government is now backed by the most powerful people in eastern Libya, including Haftar and Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh.
Dbeibah was appointed to lead an interim unitary government through a UN-backed process last year that included a military ceasefire and aimed to hold elections in December.
Parliament said his term of office expired when the election failed and appointed Bashagha to replace him with elections postponed to next year.
Dbeibah denied the allegations in a statement issued Friday stating “Similar, baseless allegations concerning Russia’s intelligence have been made more than once.
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