Fierce clashes erupted in the southwestern Libyan city of Sabha in the early hours of Tuesday between forces affiliated to warlord Khalifa Haftar and the national unity government.
Local media reported that a brigade belonging to the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU) attempted to storm military sites in the centre of Sabha that are currently under Haftar’s control.
Fighting erupted when Haftar’s forces confiscated police vehicles that had been delivered to government forces and sent them to the Brak Al-Shati base.
Residents were forced to leave their homes in the late hours as bullets rang throughout the city, while both sides fired artillery shells, local media reported.
#شاهدll اشتباكات وسط مدينة سبها فجر الثلاثاء بين الكتيبة 166 بقيادة مسعود جدي ومجموعات تابعة لحفتر من كتيبة طارق بن زياد. pic.twitter.com/eUGFpgQx9k
— شبكة لام (@Laamnetwork) December 14, 2021
Sabha, 640 km from the capital Tripoli, is southern Libya’s largest city. Haftar’s forces maintain a heavy presence there.
The latest violence comes days before the deeply divided North African country is expected to hold presidential elections, to draw a line under a decade of conflict since the 2011 overthrow of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising.
Such divisions could provoke a delay or even fresh violence, as seen overnight Monday.
A number of very controversial figures accused of human rights abuses – such as Haftar – are running in the electoral race.