TRIPOLI (Reuters) - At least two people were killed and 24 wounded in clashes between militias in Libya’s capital on Wednesday, highlighting the rivalries behind heavily armed groups that have plagued the country since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
Loud explosions and gunfire rocked Tripoli’s southern neighborhoods - the second day of violence in the battle-scarred city.
Armed groups made up of former rebel fighters from different parts of the country have grown in power and ambition nearly two years after Gaddafi was ousted and the government has struggled to impose its authority over them.
The latest fighting started on Tuesday morning when a militia given the job of guarding a major Libyan oil field attacked the headquarters of the national body set up to guard oil facilities across the country.
The group from the western town of Zintan was disgruntled after another group was given supervision of a drill in the area, officials said.
That fighting triggered widespread resentment in Tripoli against fighters from Zintan and by Wednesday, parts of the city were caught in fighting between people from that town and other areas.
Underlining the complexity of the situation, Wednesday’s violence pitted a separate group from Zintan against fighters from the Tripoli-based Supreme Security Committee (SSC).
“It seems the fighting is a continuation of what happened yesterday. It could be a revenge attack for the death of the commander,” a military source said.
The SSC had lost a commander in earlier fighting on Tuesday. Other security sources said the Zintan group may have launched a revenge attack after some of their men were seized.
A doctor working at a hospital in the Abu Salim neighborhood, scene of some of the heavier fighting, said two people had been killed and 15 wounded.
Soon after an SSC vehicle drove up to the hospital, its passengers calling for help to carry one of their men who had been shot, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
At another hospital, a doctor said eight injured people were brought in - a mix of civilians and SSC and Zintan fighters.
Separately, three explosions - believed to be car bombs - were heard in the southern desert town of Sabha on Wednesday, a local government official told Reuters.
“Three civilian cars exploded in different places around the town. One is said to have had a lot of ammunition inside,” the official, who declined to be named said, adding one was close to a hotel in the centre of the town.
In the eastern city of Benghazi, a military intelligence officer, Lieutenant Colonel Giuma Misrati, was killed near his home when a bomb exploded in his car, officials said.
Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Tripoli and Feras Bosalum in Benghazi; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Andrew Heavens