Two state recognised security forces clashed in the civilian area of Ain Zara, southeast of Tripoli last night. The clashes continued into this morning. About 20 people have been reported injured but no deaths – according to Libyan media. The main clashes have centred around the in Ain Zara / Al-Shawk Road behind Tripoli University Hospital.
The clashes were sparked after the Rada / Special Deterrence Force (SDF) militia arrested Mahmoud Hamza, the commander of 444th Brigade, at Mitiga airport yesterday. Unconfirmed reports say he was on his way to an official military event in Misrata – accompanying Prime Minister Aldabaiba.
The powerful Rada/SDF militia is headed by Abdalrauf Kara. It is deemed a state militia as no prime minister has been able to change its commander since its formation during the 2011 revolution. It has religious leanings following the Madkhali / Salafist interpretation of Islam.
The 444th Brigade is part of the (western-based) Libyan Army. Tripoli-based Libyan prime minister Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba is the Minister of Defence.
At the time of writing, reports say mediation attempts have failed to secure a ceasefire and, more importantly, the release of Hamza.
Flights to and from Mitiga airport were suspended. Aircraft were redirected to Misrata airport. Parked planes were also transferred to Misrata airport. At the time of writing at least one carrier announced it was resuming flights to and from Mitiga today lunchtime.
A group of protesters block the main seafront promenade that connects Mitiga airport with the city centre by burning tyres/rubbish. Tripoli university announced it was postponing today’s exams.
Acting Minister of Health / Deputy PM, Ramadan Abu Janah, issued a statement. He said ‘‘We urge citizens to move away from the areas of clashes, and we ask all doctors and medical personnel and medical aid in the capital, Tripoli, who work in health centers, units, and hospitals to go to their workplaces, fulfil the call of duty, and remain on standby to provide health care to citizens and deal with emergencies, and we assure all citizens that the Ministry of Health and its medical staff are fully prepared.’’
Ambulance and Emergency Service in Tripoli announced a state of emergency and warned citizens not to go out or stand near windows due to the clashes. It reported that at least one of its ambulances was hit by a bullet – but no injuries to its personnel at the time of writing.
The Emergency Medicine Centre said it had evacuated 10 families from the area of clashes south of Tripoli so far. It had also provided safe corridors for civilians to escape clash areas. Also, a clinic in the Al-Shawk Road had its patients evacuated.
Prime Minister Aldabaiba and his usually active media departments have at the time of writing, been silent on events.