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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Cairo - Khaled Mahmoud

Libya Braces for Bloody Clashes between Militias Loyal to Dbeibah, Bashagha

Joint forces affiliated with Libya's Government of National Unity, assemble inside the closed Tripoli International Airport as they deploy on the outskirts and entrances of the capital Tripoli, on August 16, 2022. (AFP)

The Libyan capital Tripoli is bracing itself for bloody clashes between militias loyal to the interim Government of National Unity (GNU), headed by Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, and militias loyal to the government of “stability,” headed by Fathi Bashagha.

Libya has been enmeshed in a stalemate for months after the eastern-based parliament swore in a new prime minister – Bashagha - despite the incumbent – Dbeibah - in Tripoli refusing to cede power, leading to a standoff with armed factions backing each side.

Militias loyal to the rival governments have declared mobilization and have continued to amass their forces for a new round of fighting.

Witnesses told local media that a state of emergency has been declared throughout Tripoli in anticipation of violence.

Dbeibah vowed on Thursday that no one would be allowed to meddle with the security of the capital.

In what was seen as a direct threat to Bashagha’s forces, he said “we lie in wait” for whoever attempts to undermine security.

The GNU will continue to function as it always has, he added, citing its international recognition.

He said that it will continue even after elections are held, stressing that the government is “the only guarantee to pressure parties to head to elections”.

Bashagha had recently called on Dbeibah to step down and clear the way for his government to prevent any bloodshed.

Meanwhile, chief of staff Mohammed al-Haddad, of the GNU, is monitoring the situation and plan is in place to defend the capital in case of any breach.

Drones have been seen flying over southern and western Tripoli. It is unknown who flew them.

A spokesman for the GNU forces said they were ready to defend the capital against a potential attack by the Libyan National Army, commanded by Khalifa Haftar.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Libya mission said it was deeply concerned by the ongoing mobilization of forces and threats to use force to resolve the country's political crisis.

Several shootouts have already taken place this summer between rival forces in the capital, raising the prospect of wider clashes and a return to sustained warfare after two years of comparative peace.

In Tripoli, Dbeibah was installed last year through a UN-backed process to head the GNU and oversee an election that was scheduled to be held last December.

After the election process collapsed with rival factions refusing to agree on the rules, the eastern-based parliament said Dbeibah's term had expired and it appointed Bashagha to lead a new government.

However, Dbeibah and some major factions in northwest Libya have rejected the parliament's right to replace him and he has said he will only quit after national elections.

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