CAIRO (AP) — Clashes erupted Tuesday between rival militias in the Libyan capital of Tripoli after one of the country’s rival prime ministers arrived there in hopes of taking over his government.
Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha’s office said in a brief statement that he had arrived in Tripoli with several ministers from his cabinet, three months after his appointment to lead an interim administration in the crisis-hit nation. The statement did not provide further details.
There was no immediate comment from the government of embattled Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, which is based in Tripoli.
The development is likely to fuel further tensions between Libya’s rival administrations. Local media reported clashes between different militias and rival forces supporting the two sides in central Tripoli and in other parts of the city.
“We arrived in the capital in peace and security. The reception was excellent,” Bashagha said in the video comments, adding that his government was ready to work with all Libyans, including those who oppose him. He made no reference to the clashes.
UN Special Adviser for Libya Stephanie Williams called for calm and for the rival parties to refrain from participating in the clashes.
“The conflict cannot be resolved with violence, but with dialogue and mediation,” he tweeted, adding that the United Nations is ready to welcome all parties “to help Libya find a genuine and consensual path to stability and elections.” ”.
Bashagha, a former interior minister, was appointed prime minister by the country’s eastern parliament in February. But Dbeibah, a wealthy businessman, has refused to step down and insists he will hand over power only to an elected government. Both prime ministers hail from the powerful western city of Misrata.
Over the weekend, rival militias also clashed in the Janzour neighborhood of Tripoli. No casualties were reported, but local authorities said there was damage to infrastructure, including a power plant.
The UN mission in Libya condemned the clashes, saying they involved “indiscriminate fire and the alleged use of heavy weapons” in the densely populated neighborhood.
Lawmakers have argued that Dbeibah’s term expired after Libya failed to hold presidential elections in December as planned under a UN-brokered deal.
The fact that the vote did not take place dealt a heavy blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in Libya. It opened a new chapter in Libya’s long political stalemate, with rival governments claiming power after tentative steps toward unity in the past year.
The oil-rich country has been wracked by conflict since the NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. Since then, Libya has been divided for years between rival administrations in the east and west, each one supported by different militias and foreign governments. .