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Libya fighting appears to calm after release of Commander

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Two powerful armed factions battled in Libya’s capital on Tuesday in the city’s worst violence this year, but the deadly clashes appeared to have calmed, after one side released a Commander whose detention had triggered the fighting, Reuters reports.

The Special Deterrence Force and the 444 Brigade are two of the strongest military forces in Tripoli and their fighting from late on Monday rocked districts across the capital.

The fighting began after the Special Deterrence Force, which controls Tripoli’s main Mitiga Airport, detained 444 Brigade Commander, Mahmoud Hamza, as he attempted to travel.

He was released by the Special Deterrence Force and handed over to a third faction, which was not involved in the fighting, on Tuesday evening, a source from each of the warring sides said.

Blasts pounded central Tripoli immediately after media reported that Hamza had been handed over, Reuters witnesses in the city said, but calmed down later in the evening.

The death toll from the clashes remains unclear, but a medical unit linked to the Defence Ministry said it had recovered three bodies from the Furnaj, Ain Zara and Tarik Shok districts.

The Health Ministry appealed to citizens to donate blood to help casualties. Usama Ali, a spokesperson for the ambulance service, said 19 people had been injured and 26 families evacuated from a strife-hit district.

Dark smoke hung over parts of the city and the sound of heavy weapons rattled through the streets as fighting erupted in different suburbs.

The UN envoy to Libya called for an immediate end to the violence.

The clashes between the 444 Brigade and the Special Deterrence Force, both of which backed the interim Government of National Unity (GNU) during brief battles last year, shatter months of relative calm in Tripoli.

Libya has had little peace or security since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising and it split in 2014 between warring eastern and western factions.

An assault by eastern forces on Tripoli, in the west, collapsed in 2020 leading to a ceasefire that has halted most major warfare. Turkiye, which backed the Tripoli government, maintained a military presence in Libya.

However, there has been little progress towards a lasting political solution to the conflict and, on the ground, armed factions that have gained official status and financing continue to wield power.

Last year, factions backing a rival government declared by the eastern-based Parliament launched a doomed attempt to oust Prime Minister, Abdulhamid Al-Dbeibah, head of the interim unity government, leading to a day of heavy clashes in Tripoli.

Sporadic fighting has also this year rocked the city of Zawiya, west of the capital.


The Special Deterrence Force has been one of Tripoli’s main armed factions for years, holding Mitiga and the surrounding coastal area, including a stretch of the main road to the east.

The 444 Brigade controls large swathes of the capital and areas south of Tripoli. Hamza, a former officer in the Special Deterrence Force, has previously been a key figure in mediating an end to tension between other armed factions.

Another significant Tripoli armed faction, the Stabilisation Support Apparatus, had fighters and vehicles out on the street in areas it controls, but was not involved in the clashes, a Reuters witness said.

Hamza was handed to the Stabilisation Support Apparatus upon his release, a Special Deterrence Force source and local media said.

A resident of the Tarik Shok area of southern Tripoli said he could hear fighting when he went to bed at 1:30 a.m. and more strongly when he woke up at 7:30 a.m.

“We can hear heavy gunfire since early morning. My family lives in the Khalat Furjan area about 7 km (4 miles) away and they also hear clashes,” he said.

Some of the fighting was around Mitiga Airport, residents said. Flights were diverted from the airport to Misrata, a city about 180 km (110 miles) east of Tripoli, airlines and airport sources said.

A Turkish Defence Ministry official said on Tuesday afternoon that “the situation calmed down” in Tripoli and there were no problems regarding the security of Turkish troops. Mitiga hosts a Turkish military presence, diplomats say.

Source: Middle East Monitor 

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