Tripoli (AFP) – Artillery exchanges rocked the Libyan capital for a third day on Wednesday after forces loyal to the UN-backed government stormed the headquarters of a rival militia overnight, witnesses said.
Libya has experienced years of violence and lawlessness since the NATO-backed ouster of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with rival parliaments and governments trading barbs and militias fighting over territory and the country’s vast oil wealth.
Militia loyal to former prime minister Khalifa Ghweil, whose administration was replaced by the UN-backed government last year, have stepped up a campaign of defiance against its authority.
The militia, mainly drawn from Ghweil’s hometown, third city Misrata, were putting up fierce resistance in their base in the Guest Palace, a complex of luxury villas in the city centre.
A rocket hit the Al-Khadhra Hospital without causing any casualties, a medic said.
Overnight, gunmen stormed the headquarters of Al-Nabaa television, a privately owned channel known for its Islamist leanings, witnesses said.
The channel remained off the air on Wednesday.
The fighting brought life in the capital to a standstill with schools and shops closed.
It came despite an appeal from UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler on Tuesday for an “immediate ceasefire”.
“Civilians at grave risk in ongoing clashes,” Kobler said on Twitter.
The clashes erupted in the neighbourhoods of Hay al-Andalus and Gargaresh on Monday evening, prompting the government to deploy tanks.
They came as heavy fighting rocked the east of Libya where forces loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar announced their recapture of two key oil ports on Tuesday.
Haftar’s forces, which do not recognise the UN-backed government, mounted a day-long assault by land, sea and air to retake the ports of Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra, after they were seized by a rival, Islamist-led force earlier this month.