Libya’s military swept into the capital Monday with dozens of pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns in an operation to drive out militiamen, the Associated Press reported.
The operation was met by a warm welcome from Libyans seething with anger against the numerous armed groups running rampant in the country.
Essam al-Naas, spokesman from the Joint Operation Room, a security body under the prime minister, told the Associated Press that as the military deployed, militias from the western city of Misrata, withdrew from their positions in four districts of the capital and returned to their city.
Sporadic gunfire was heard in eastern Tripoli, in an area called Wadi al-Rabie, or the Spring Valley, when members of the Misrata militia fired on a Tripoli-based militia that was demanding they surrender their weapons before leaving, al-Naas said. There was no immediate report of casualties.
The troops’ deployment followed deadly weekend clashes sparked by a protest against the former rebels in Libya’s 2011 revolt.
The unrest was the deadliest in the capital since the uprising and erupted when the former rebels from Misrata opened fire on protesters, triggering the clashes that killed at least 43 people and wounded 450, Agence France-Presse reported.
Universities in Tripoli on Monday announced they would close for the week.
Hanan Salah, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, told AFP that the latest clashes “showcase the extent of the reckless acts of unaccountable militias these past two years, and the government’s lack of ability to control them.”
Elsewhere, a senior military officer escaped a bomb blast on Monday in the eastern city of Benghazi, which has been the scene of regular violence since 2011.
“The motorcade of Colonel Abdallah al-Saati, head of the joint security room and military governor of Benghazi, was attacked as he passed through the Al-Hadeq area, leaving one dead and one seriously wounded from his entourage,” AFP quoted the security forces spokesman Colonel Abdallah al-Zaidi as saying.
Zaidi said that explosives experts were combing the area for to find out how the attack took place.
The army's move came as the United States on Monday announced it would train up to 8,000 Libyan soldiers, aiming to bolster the military.
(With AFP and the Associated Press)