News / Middle East

Rival Libyan Militias Clash in Tripoli, Benghazi

Smoke rises near oil tanks after heavy fighting between rival militias broke out near the airport in Tripoli, July 23, 2014.
Smoke rises near oil tanks after heavy fighting between rival militias broke out near the airport in Tripoli, July 23, 2014.
Reuters

Heavy black smoke rose over southern Tripoli on Thursday after rival militias exchanged artillery and rocket fire in a battle over the Libyan capital's airport that has killed around 50 people in nearly a fortnight of fighting.

Sporadic blasts echoed across the city since the morning in clashes that have deepened fears of post-war Libya becoming a failed state, with a fragile government unable to control heavily armed brigades battling for power.

Fighting in the capital and the eastern city of Benghazi, its heaviest since the 2011 war that ousted Moammer Gadhafi, has led most international flights to Libya to be canceled and has prompted the United States to pull out embassy staff.

A Health Ministry official in Tripoli was unable to provide details of Thursday's casualties because he could not contact hospital staff in the area. One local doctor said at least 30 injured were at his hospital in Tripoli on Wednesday.

The Mitiga hospital in Tripoli said it was in an emergency situation because of a lack of resources and the inability of many employees to get to work due to the fighting and gasoline shortages, state news agency LANA reported.

Underscoring Libya's chaos, acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said on Thursday that he was prevented by militias from flying from an airport outside Tripoli.

“Groups controlling Mitiga Airport prevented acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and ministers from flying to the eastern city of Tobruk,” a statement from his office said.

Mitiga, used mostly for military and oil company flights, has been opened to limited international flights since the clashes erupted and Tripoli International Airport was closed.

At least nine people were killed and 19 wounded overnight in Benghazi, mostly civilians, in heavy clashes as government forces tried to oust Islamist militants holed up in Libya's eastern port city, medical sources said on Thursday.

Most gas stations in Tripoli have closed since the fighting erupted over the airport. Hundreds of cars have been left for days in long lines at different stations waiting for fuel.

Two main rival militias in Tripoli have exchanged fire with Grad rockets, shells and anti-aircraft cannons for control of the country's main airport for nearly two weeks, damaging aircraft there and shutting down most international flights.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday that Istanbul may evacuate its embassy in Tripoli, a day after his ministry advised all Turkish citizens to leave the North African country due to the worsening security situation.

Oil output hit

The fighting has also taken a toll on Libya's fragile oil industry. The significant El-Feel oilfield has reduced production due to the clashes and total output slid around 20 percent to 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) on Monday.

A spokesman for the state-run NOC said on Thursday production had risen to 500,000 bpd, but added there was still no progress on reopening the Brega oil port after a deal with protesters to end a blockade there.

Reopening Brega would boost crude output by bringing the stalled Sirte oil operations back into production.

The OPEC oil producer's petroleum industry has been a prime target for blockades by militias and other armed groups seeking to pressure the government for financial or political gain.

Libya's Western partners fear the country is becoming increasingly polarized between two main factions of competing militia brigades and their political allies.

One side is grouped around the western town of Zintan and their Tripoli allies who are loosely tied to the National Forces Alliance political movement in the parliament.

The second faction centers on the more Islamist-leaning Misrata brigades and allied militias who side with the Justice and Construction Party, a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Zintan fighters have controlled Tripoli's main airport since the fall of the capital in 2011. They have repeatedly clashed with rivals in Tripoli, but this week's battles were the most sustained since Gadhafi's overthrow.

Western powers hope the formation of a new parliament in August after a June election will open the way for the factions to forge a political settlement over a new government.

The previous parliament, known as the General National Congress, was caught in a deadlock between Islamist and nationalist factions and was blamed by many Libyans for the lack of progress toward political stability and democracy. 

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs