Protests against militias break out in Libyan capital
Close to 200 people have been killed since the violence erupted two weeks ago in Tripoli
Protesters took to the streets of the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Thursday in a show support for the embattled army and to demand the expulsion of Islamist militias from the capital, during a peirod of the country’s worst fighting since the 2011 revolt that overthrew Muammar Qaddafi.
The protest in Tripoli comes after Libya’s Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia has said that it seized complete control of Benghazi late on Wednesday, declaring the city an “Islamic emirate.”
Clashes with artillery and rockets spread on Thursday into two Tripoli districts, where rival militia brigades were battling over the airport.
Close to 200 people have been killed since the violence erupted two weeks ago in Tripoli and also in the eastern city of Benghazi, where a coalition of Islamist militants and former rebels has overrun a major army base in the city.
Tunisia also declared a high alert on its 459km border with Libya, as Prime Minister Mehdi Jumaa held a meeting with the country’s ministers of Interior, Civil Defense, Justice and Foreign Affairs, to discuss the security risks on the Tunisia-Libya border.
Three years after the fall of Qaddafi, Libya’s fragile government and nascent army have failed to impose authority on heavily armed brigades of former rebels who have become the North African country’s powerbrokers.
Fighting over two weeks has driven most Western diplomats out of the Libyan capital, increasing international worries that the OPEC oil producer is sliding toward becoming a failed state just across the Mediterranean from mainland Europe.
Thuds of artillery, rockets and anti-aircraft cannons echoed across Tripoli from early Thursday morning, a day after a temporary ceasefire agreed by factions to allow firefighters to put out a huge blaze at a fuel depot hit by a rocket.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the new exchanges. But the health ministry said on Thursday hospitals had reported 179 people killed and more than 700 wounded in fighting in the two cities since the start of violence.
Late on Wednesday, Libya’s Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia has said that it seized complete control of Benghazi, declaring the city an “Islamic emirate,” the group’s representative said.