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

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs