Gunbattles erupt in Tripoli

 

Tripoli, Libya

Gunbattles shut down a neighborhood of central Tripoli on Sunday, as militias loyal to the government battled another militia that they said had gone rogue.

The clashes, which included the exchange of machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades, underscored the shakiness of Libya's security even within the confines of the capital, where the country's security forces are headquartered.

A year after the fall of autocrat Moammar Gadhafi, rebels-turned-militias continue to dominate the country's quest for security. Libya's fledgling police force is mostly unarmed and lacks training and resources, local officials said. And the Libyan army is almost nonexistent; the chief of staff is a lame duck, according to Tripoli's top militia commanders.

Clashes broke out in Tripoli's Bab Bin Ghashir neighborhood Saturday night after residents said they confronted the Support Unit No. 8 militia for allegedly abducting and torturing two area residents.

"The problem is that the revolutionaries still think they're revolutionaries, not employees who march to orders," said Mohamed Abu Shkiwa, an official in the Tripoli Supreme Security Committee (SSC), a powerful union of militias that runs most of the capital's security operations and was leading the assault on the rogue militia. Shkiwa said the group had been under the SSC's umbrella until commanders revoked its "legitimacy" Sunday.

Bystanders watched Sunday afternoon as government-allied fighters and police personnel exchanged periodic machine-gun fire with the Support Unit No. 8 militia, which was holed up in one of the former regime's intelligence headquarters.

Plainclothes SSC fighters armed with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades blocked side streets in the neighborhood and paced alongside trucks, radioing instructions.

Shkiwa said his forces knew of three people injured in the clashes. Residents said they thought the son of the rogue militia commander Mohamed Warfalli had been killed.

By late afternoon, SSC fighters had set fire to the militia's building and residents reported looting in the area, according to the Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile, the General National Congress, the country's only elected body, carried on with its first session of the week, debating plans to inaugurate a new cabinet, seemingly oblivious of the clashes about a mile away.

The absence of a centralized security force and a clear chain of command has left Tripoli and other Libyan cities at the mercy of their most powerful militias. Most of them claim loyalty to the government, but officials in Tripoli have said that they have little control over the militias.

The security vacuum also has hindered national efforts to investigate an attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi in September that left Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.

In that eastern city, where residents say security conditions are markedly worse than in Tripoli, a car bomb exploded in front of a police station early Sunday, injuring three, according to Reuters. No group asserted responsibility for the attack.

Meanwhile, SSC commanders in Tripoli said their forces had not previously gone after rogue militias because they did not want to set former revolutionaries against their peers.

"We feel so sad if we kill any revolutionaries, because they are revolutionaries who were with us from the very beginning," said Saad Garsallah, a high-ranking SSC commander.

---

Ayman al-Kekly contributed to this report.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Lead Application Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

Year 3 Welsh Teacher vacancy in Penarth

£110 - £120 per day + Travel Scheme and Free training: Randstad Education Card...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Male Behaviour Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz