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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid