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Libyan clashes continue despite truce calls

Rival militias trade gunfire and shells in capital Tripoli, ignoring international appeals for ceasefire.

Last updated: 18 Aug 2014 07:07
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Libyan factions have traded gunfire and shells in various parts of Tripoli, ignoring international appeals for a ceasefire to end more than a month of fighting.

Militias from the city of Misrata and fighters of Zintan have wrestled for control of the capital in the worst clashes since the NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

Gunfire and shelling could be heard near the airport and other parts of Tripoli through the day on Sunday, but the fighting was less fierce than on Saturday when much of the city was a battlefield.

The battles have forced the United Nations and Western governments to evacuate their diplomats, fearing Libya is sliding into civil war. 

The UN Mission in Libya said in a statement that it "deeply regrets that there was no response to the repeated international appeals and its own efforts for an immediate ceasefire".

"The Mission warns that the continued fighting poses a serious threat to Libya's political process, and to the security and stability of the country," the UN said.

Battle over airport

Most of the fighting has raged over the international airport in Tripoli, which fighters from Zintan have controlled since sweeping into the capital during the 2011 war.

Libya's fragile government still has no national army and often put former rebels on the state payroll as semi-official security forces as a way to co-opt them into the new state.

But the heavily armed rival brigades are allied with competing political factions and are often more loyal to their region, city or local commanders than to the central government.

A separate battle in the eastern city of Benghazi has complicated Libya's security, with an alliance of Islamist fighters and ex-rebels forcing the army out of the city.

A group of Islamists in Benghazi including Ansar al-Sharia issued a statement on Sunday rejecting the idea of democracy and secular political parties in Libya.

"We don't fight for the sake of democracy...but for God and to defend the land", the statement said.

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Source:
Reuters
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