There were militia clashes in central Tripoli overnight that led to civilian deaths, injuries and damage to property, initial reports say. The fighting spread from as far east as Al-Jadaida prison, Sabaa, Ain Zara, Furnaj, Al-Shawk Road and to as central as Zaweet Al-Dahmani.
The spokesperson for the Emergency and Ambulance Service, Osama Ali, was quoted by several Libyan media outlets confirming that the number of deaths had reached three civilian deaths, including a young child, in addition to the injury of a woman and her husband. Some property caught fire and some cars were burnt in the crossfire. Unconfirmed social media reports put deaths at 9 and injuries at 25 people.
The clashes were between the Abdelrauf Kara led Special Deterrence Force (SDF/Rada) and the Ayoub Aburas led Tripoli Revolutionary Brigades. One analysis says the clashes were sparked by Rada arresting or continuing to hold a member of the TRB. Another explanation says the clashes were territorial as Rada forcibly ejected the TRB from several headquarters and positions in the areas of clashes.
Unsurprisingly, the clashes caused mayhem among civilians. On the eve of weekend, Tripoli roads were packed with cars on a summer night. The weekend seems to be the regular night for militia clashes in Tripoli. Some put this to the consumption of alcohol / use of drugs.
The worse affected were groups of women attending (women only) parties at various wedding halls in Ain Zara. They were trapped as roads were closed preventing them from either driving home themselves or being picked up by relatives. The Emergency and Ambulance Service helped escort many home.
About 60 university boarding students were also trapped in university accommodation and were also safely escorted to safer locations by the Emergency and Ambulance Service.
The seriousness of the clashes led to Tripoli’s Mitiga airport closing the airport and diverting all flights to Misrata airport.
The Ministry of Defence’s 444 Brigade intervened and attempted to restore calm. Reports this morning say the main clashes seem to have largely stopped but for the odd sound of sporadic gunfire.
In a statement released in the early hours of today, the Presidential Council, in its capacity as the Supreme Commander of the army, called on all parties to the conflict to cease fire and return to their headquarters immediately.
It demanded that the Attorney General and the Military Prosecutor, each according to their competencies, open a comprehensive investigation into the causes of the clashes.
It also urged the Ministers of Defence (Caretaker Prime Minister Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba) and Interior (Khaled Mazen) to take the necessary measures that would impose security in the capital.
The umpteenth militia clash in the capital Tripoli is no more than continued indictment of the Libyan governments since 2011 in their weakness in the face of the militias they subsidise. The Libyan civilian taxpayer continues to subsidise militias through oil revenues that prop up successive governments and terrorise civilians. The state recognized and subsidised militias continue to act with impunity safe in the knowledge that they will not be prosecuted.
Aldabaiba’s silence as Defence Minister is deafening
Aldabaiba’s silence as Defence Minister is deafening. His usual propaganda machine is nowhere to be heard whenever it comes to Tripoli militia clashes. He has clung on to power and gone on a populist spending spree of increased wages, bonuses and allowances – but has done nothing in structural reform that would strengthen the state and its security institutions.
Aldabaiba ineffective as Defence Minister
Aldabaiba still insists on holding on to the post of Defence Minister despite urgings and warnings from the Presidential Council to appoint a stand-alone Defence Minister. Yet Aldabaiba has not utilised his role as Defence Minister to reform or restructure Libya’s western region security institutions.
Militias like the softer Aldabaiba?
Aldabaiba’s popularity amongst Tripoli and western region militias in his battle against Fathi Bashagha for the post of Prime Minister is thought to be because the former is deemed less hard-line against militias. Indeed, Bashagha had developed a reputation as Interior Minister of being hard on militias.
Enshrining militias and extenuating weak Libyan state
Sadly, Aldabaiba’s short-term populist spending sprees will do nothing to build Libya and its institutions in the long run. His policies will simply enshrine militias and extenuate the weak Libyan state.
Status quo will trap Libya in current political and economic quagmire
A week militia dominated Libyan state will not attract a full return of foreign embassies, foreign experts, technicians and companies or investment of capital to restart the Libyan economy into diversified non-hydrocarbon sectors. There will be no creation of new industry or commerce to create employment opportunities for youth – including militias. This will trap Libya in its current political and economic quagmire.