Skip to main content

Libya capital rocked by heavy fighting between militias

Heavy fighting broke out at the Souk Talat district in the centre of Libya's capital Trpioli, between two influential militias
— Tripoli (AFP)

A night of clashes between militias in the heart of a residential district of the Libyan capital Tripoli raised fears on Saturday of escalating violence in the conflict-riven country.

The intense fighting that erupted late Friday between two armed groups that back rival prime ministers left at least one person dead and caused significant material damage, a security source told AFP.

Gunfire and explosions rang out across Tripoli during the fighting, described by one resident as possibly the "heaviest" seen in the city for more than a decade.

It was the latest violence to rock the country after a failed bid last month by former interior minister Fathi Bashagha -- voted in as prime minister by parliament -- to take power from interim premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah.

Footage aired by Libyan media showed civilians, including women pushing children in prams, fleeing on busy streets in a built-up area after being caught in the crossfire.

The fighting broke out in Souk Talat neighbourhood and pitted two militias -- Al-Nawasi, considered close to Bashagha, and the pro-Dbeibah Stability Support Apparatus -- against one another, said the security source.

It came amid tensions following the arrest of fighters from both militias, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The clashes stopped after mediation by a neutral military force (Brigade 444), which deployed a number of its armoured vehicles" in the area of the fighting, he added.

A video released overnight showed Dbeibah ordering members of the force to intervene to secure the area and protect civilians.

The source said there had been no civilian casualties, but cited "material damage".

- 'Criminal militias' -

By Saturday, normality had largely been restored to the area, but the violence sparked renewed outrage among residents.

"This situation is unacceptable and it is unbearable for civilians to be caught in an ambush that puts their lives at risk because of the settling of scores by criminal militias," 25-year-old student Maha Mokhtar told AFP.


"What is the fault of these families who fled their homes?" she added.

Rida Said, another resident, said he had seen the fighting from his own balcony, describing the clashes as "perhaps the heaviest in our area since 2011".

"It was clear that they were firing randomly at civilian areas with a lot of buildings," the 67-year-old said.

"I was struck by panic and I feared for my children, who went out with their friends as they do every weekend... but thankfully they returned safely."

- 'Shocking & shameful' -

The latest bout of fighting drew international condemnation, including from Stephanie Williams, the United Nations secretary-general's special adviser on Libya.

"Enough is enough! I call for absolute calm and protection of civilians," she tweeted Saturday, alongside a statement calling on parties to exercise "maximum restraint".

The streets of Tripoli's Souk Talat neighbourhood were largely calm on Saturday

The European Union's envoy to Libya, Jose Sabadell, condemned the fighting as "shocking and shameful".

"Arms were fired at a park where children run and play. Public spaces in Tripoli belong to families, not to men with guns," he wrote on Twitter.

Last month, Bashagha attempted to seize power in Tripoli, sparking pre-dawn clashes between armed groups supporting him and those backing interim premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah.

It was the latest episode of political infighting to fill the power vacuum left after the toppling of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Dbeibah was appointed under a troubled UN-led peace process early last year to lead a transition to elections set for December 2021, but the vote was indefinitely postponed.

In February, parliament appointed Bashagha to take over, arguing that Dbeibah's mandate had ended.

But Dbeibah has insisted he will only relinquish power to an elected administration.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial