TRIPOLI Aug 16 Heavy fighting erupted on
Saturday between rival militias in Libya's capital, hours after
the new U.N. special envoy said he planned to visit Tripoli as
early as next week to try to broker a ceasefire.
Gunfire and shelling with Grad rockets and artillery guns
could be heard from the early morning near the airport and
several residential parts of Tripoli.
Spanish diplomat Bernardino Leon, who is due to start his
job officially on Sept. 1, aims to end fighting between brigades
from Misrata and fighters allied to the western town of Zintan,
whose rivalries erupted a month ago into the worst clashes since
the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
The battles, which involve brigades of former rebels who
once fought Gaddafi together, have forced the United Nations and
Western governments to evacuate their diplomats, fearing Libya
is sliding into civil war.
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
militants and ex-rebels forcing the army out of the city.
Three years since Gaddafi's one-man rule ended, Libya's
fragile efforts towards democracy are close to chaos. The month
of fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi has further polarised the
political factions and their militia allies.
(Reporting by Reuters reporters in Libya; Writing by Ulf
Laessing; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)