Libyan rival PM leaves Tripoli after clashes between forces

Libya’s parliament-appointed prime minister briefly attempted to take over the capital Tripoli before being forced out hours after his arrival triggered fighting between opposing militias.

Clashes erupted early on Tuesday morning as Fathi Bashagha tried to take control of the government from the rival United Nations-recognised administration of Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, which has refused to cede power.

Bashagha, who was appointed as prime minister by the Tobruk-based parliament in February, entered Tripoli overnight after two months of deadlock between Libya’s rival administrations, but withdrew hours later as fighting rocked the capital “to preserve the security and safety of citizens”, his office said.

The sound of heavy weapons and automatic gunfire was heard across the capital on Tuesday morning, schools were cancelled, and the normally heavy rush hour traffic was sparse.

Fighting was reported in the al-Mansoura and Souq al-Thulatha areas of central Tripoli.

Khaled al-Mishri, the head of Libya’s High Council of State, condemned the violence and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities.

“We affirm that the only solution to the current political impasse is a clear constitutional process on the basis of which elections are held, and in which the Libyan people renew their authority, in a peaceful and transparent manner,” al-Mishri said.

Libya has once again had two governments since the Tobruk-based House of Representatives in the country’s east appointed Bashagha, a former interior minister under a previous UN-recognised government.

The North African country has been riven by divisions since civil war broke out in 2014 between rival administrations based in the west and east of the country. That war ended in 2020, but splits have remained.

“What we need to understand is that in Libya, through a previous power-sharing agreement, there are two legislative houses,” said Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina. “There’s the parliament based in eastern Libya, and there’s the high council of state in the west.”

The two legislative bodies are supposed to agree on a new government to replace the unity government of Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, Traina explained.

But the appointment of Bashagha raised eyebrows regarding the transparency of the process.

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