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Libya's capital sees fresh wave of violence following coup attempt

No casualties were reported but tensions remain high as rival political factions vie for power
Heavy gunfire and explosions were heard across the Libyan capital of Tripoli late on 10 June 2022 (AFP)

Violent clashes broke out between armed groups in the Libyan capital Tripoli late on Friday as the country continues to deal with the aftershocks of a failed coup attempt last month.

According to an AFP journalist, heavy exchanges of gunfire and explosions were heard across several districts of the city, while images broadcast by local press showed civilians fleeing some areas.

The intense fighting involved two influential militias from western Libya, local media reported. 

No casualties or motives for the fighting were immediately apparent, but this outbreak is the latest violence to rock the country as two rival prime ministers vie for power. 

Last month, politician Fathi Bashagha attempted to seize power by force, sparking pre-dawn clashes between armed groups supporting him and those backing the interim premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah.

Dbeibah was appointed early last year as part of the troubled UN-led peace process that was working towards elections in December 2021, but the vote was indefinitely postponed.

In February, the east-Libya-based parliament appointed Bashagha, a one-time interior minister, to take over, arguing that Dbeibah's mandate had ended.

But Dbeibah has insisted he will only relinquish power to an elected administration.

Rival governments

The renewed fighting has raised fears of a return to the chaos that followed the 2011 Nato-backed revolt that toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, and an all-out conflict that gripped the capital from 2019 to 2020.

In March this year, pro-Bashagha armed groups deployed on the edges of the capital, prompting concerns that a confrontation would end the fragile ceasefire that had been in place since October 2020.

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Bashagha is backed by Khalifa Haftar, the eastern-based commander who led a failed bid to seize Tripoli in 2019-20, and who maintains control of several key oil installations.

Armed groups have vied for control over territory as a string of interim governments have come and gone.

Many such groups have been integrated into the state, partly in order to access a share of the country's vast oil wealth, and human rights organisations have often accused them of abuses.

The creation of two governments echoes Libya's troubled period of rival administrations between 2014 and 2021 when the oil-rich nation was ripped apart by civil war.

Oil production, the country's main source of income, has again been hit by political rifts recently with a wave of forced closures of oil terminals by groups aligned with the eastern camp, who demand that power be transferred to Bashagha.