At least eight people were killed and dozens injured on Monday when heavy clashes erupted in an eastern suburb of Tripoli between armed groups loyal to Libya’s rival administration.
Loud explosions and anti-aircraft gunfire rang out across the eastern part of the city when fighting broke out near to the heart hospital in eastern Tajura between the Tajura Lions and the Al-Faruj brigades both part of Libya Dawn, the armed coalition that rules the capital.
Two prominent Libya Dawn commanders and several civilians were among those killed as the clashes intensified through the day. Head of the Tajura Operations Room Mohamed Fawzi Shahima and his deputy Ahmed Abuzuida died while trying to halt the fighting, according to social media reports. One civilian was killed when a rocket landed on his car, according to a medical source.
Tripoli residents told Libya Channel the dispute began Sunday night over the kidnapping of fighters – although it is unclear which armed group initiated the clashes.
Nearly 400 prisoners also escaped from a Tajura prison next to the local’s prosecutor’s office on Monday, after a fighter nicknamed “al-Bugra” or the Cow attacked and set fire to the building in the middle of the chaos.
The inmates who fled are largely thought to be supporters of General Khalifa Haftar – appointed head of the Libyan Army by internationally-recognised parliament forced to operate from the east of the country since Dawn’s takeover of the capital. The detainees were jailed after attempting to stage an uprising against Dawn’s takeover of the capital last year.
By Tuesday afternoon residents told Libya Channel large parts of the suburb were still in the throes of fighting. “There are sand barricades everywhere, fires and shooting, it’s chaos,” said one man who asked not to be named for fear of backlash.
The capital has seen an uptick in violence as the fragile alliance of West Libya’s myriad armed groups has begun to show signs of falling apart while an 18-month civil war drags on.
Fighting between Dawn militias had already erupted in the Tajura area in October between Misrata-based fighting groups and brigades from Tripoli over similar accusations of kidnapping. Bab Tajura brigade – headed up by its commander Haitham al-Tajuri – started the fighting after detaining 10 Misrati fighters in retaliation for the detention of five Tajuris the week before.
Last month inter-militia tensions further escalated when Tripolitan brigades rallied around Abdelghani al-Kikli, aka Ghniwa, a militia leader from the southern neighborhood of Abu Slim, clashed with Misratan brigades based in the capital.
The Misrata-anchored Dawn coalition first appeared last summer, when its armed faction swept control of the capital forcing the newly elected parliament and its cabinet to operate over 1500km east in cities of Tobruk and Bayda.