Clashes rock western outskirts of Libyan capital

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Libyan armed factions fought in the western outskirts of Tripoli late on Friday and early Saturday as forces aligned with Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah’s government further consolidated their control over the capital.

Fighting took place in Warshafala, a district west of Tripoli that has been the site of repeated clashes throughout the 11 years of violence and chaos since a NATO-backed uprising ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The clashes, along with a major pro-Dbeibah group taking over a military headquarters in southern Tripoli, come a week after Libya’s biggest bout of warfare for two years, as several rival factions battled in and around the capital.

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Last week’s fighting dislodged several groups that had aligned with Dbeibah’s rival as prime minister - the former interior minister Fathi Bashagha who has been appointed by the eastern-based parliament to head a new government.

The standoff between the two men had lasted for months, with Libya’s powerful eastern faction lined up behind Bashagha, while the numerous factions controlling Tripoli and the rest of the northwest were divided.

Following last week’s fighting, both Bashagha and Dbeibah have visited Turkey, which helped the now-divided western factions fight off an eastern assault in 2020.

Turkey retains a military presence around Tripoli, including drones that could play a critical role in deciding the outcome of any major bout of warfare if it decided to back a side.

Last week there were unconfirmed reports that drones were used against factions backing Bashagha.

Diplomacy to resolve Libya’s crisis has faltered. Late on Friday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed a new envoy to Libya but with the UN Security Council divided, it is unclear how much clout Abdoulaye Bathily will enjoy in the role.

In fighting late on Friday and early on Saturday, a witness said mortars were being fired in Warshafana, a district of farmland, villages and patches of urban sprawl between Tripoli and the western city of al-Zawiya.

During last week’s fighting, a major Bashagha-aligned faction based in Zawiya was said to be among groups that were repulsed from the outskirts of the capital.

In the southern Tripoli district of Ain Zara, a powerful faction that backed Dbeibah during last week’s fighting took over a security headquarters.

Fighters and vehicles bearing its insignia stood guard there on Saturday morning with checkpoints set up nearby.

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