Libya fighting leaves 55 dead, dozens injured: Medics

Tripoli’s worst armed clashes in a year have killed 55 people and wounded 146, Libyan media outlets have reported, as a truce took hold.

Fighting erupted on Monday night and raged through Tuesday between the influential 444 Brigade and the Special Deterrence Force, two of the many armed groups that have vied for power since the overthrow of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.Libya’s Al-Ahrar TV reported the new casualty toll on Wednesday, citing Malek Mersit, spokesman for the Emergency Medical Centre. Medics had previously reported 27 dead and 106 wounded over the two days of fighting in the capital.

In August last year, 32 people were killed and 159 wounded in Tripoli during battles between divided Libya’s two rival administrations that compete for power through shifting alliances with the fighting groups on the ground.

Libya has seen more than a decade of stop-start conflict since the NATO-backed revolt that toppled Gaddafi.

A period of relative stability had led the United Nations to express hope for delayed elections to take place this year, and the latest fighting triggered international calls for calm.

The clashes started after the detention of the head of the 444 Brigade, Colonel Mahmoud Hamza, by the rival Special Deterrence Force on Monday, an interior ministry official said.

Late Tuesday, the social council in the eastern suburb of Souq al-Jumaa, a stronghold of the Special Deterrence Force, announced that an agreement had been reached with Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, head of the UN-recognised government based in the capital, for Hamza to be handed over to a “neutral party”.

In a televised announcement, the council said a ceasefire would follow the transfer of the force’s commander, and late on Tuesday the fighting abated.

Both armed groups are aligned with Dbeibah’s government.A total of 234 families were evacuated from front-line areas in the capital’s southern suburbs, along with dozens of doctors and paramedics trapped by the fighting while caring for the wounded, the Emergency Medical Centre said.Late on Tuesday and into the early hours of Wednesday, Dbeibah visited the southeastern suburb of Ain Zara, which saw some of the heaviest fighting on Tuesday, accompanied by Interior Minister Emad Trabelsi.

Dbeibah “saw for himself the severity of the damage” as he toured the densely populated neighbourhood’s unlit streets, his government’s press office said on its Facebook page.

He gave instructions for a survey of the damage to be carried out so that residents could be compensated, it added.

The interior ministry put in place a security plan to deploy officers to battleground districts to oversee the truce announced between the two sides.

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