The death toll as a result of recent clashes in Tripoli has risen to 55, local media reported on Wednesday. Earlier, 27 people were reported dead and 106 injured in the two days of clashes in the capital.
Citing Malek Mersit, spokesman for the Emergency Medical Center, Libyan television channel Al Ahrar reported that the death toll from clashes between the influential 444 Brigade and Al-Radaa, or Special Deterrence Force, on the southern outskirts of Tripoli had risen to 55, while 146 people had been injured.
The clashes erupted on Monday night and continued throughout Tuesday. A total of 234 families were evacuated from frontline areas in the capital’s southern suburbs, along with dozens of doctors and paramedics caught up in the fighting as they tended to the wounded, the Emergency Medical Center said.
It has been the worst armed clashes in Tripoli in a year, in a country where rival administrations vying for power since the overthrow of President Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 frequently engage in fighting. They resort to shifting alliances with militias on the ground.
The clashes were triggered after the arrest on Monday of the head of the 444 Brigade, Colonel Mahmud Hamza, by the rival Al-Radaa force, according to an Interior Ministry official.
Late Tuesday, the social council of the southeastern suburb of Sougel-Joumaa, a stronghold of the Al-Radaa force, announced that an agreement had been reached with Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, head of the UN-recognized government based in the capital, for Hamza to be handed over to a “neutral party.”
The council declared on television that the transfer of force command would be followed by a cease-fire, and late Tuesday fighting subsided. The Interior Ministry launched a security plan to deploy officers in battlefield districts to monitor the truce announced between the two sides.
Hanan Saleh, Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch, expressed outrage that armed groups in the capital continued to settle their differences with heavy weaponry in residential areas without accountability. “Surely Libyans at risk of such violent incidents deserve more. Nothing will change if there are no consequences,” the official said.
Brigade 444 is affiliated with the Libyan Defense Ministry, while the Al-Radaa force, commanded by Abdel Rauf Karah, is a powerful ultraconservative militia that controls central and eastern Tripoli, the Mitiga air base, the civilian airport and a prison.
The North African country is divided into two governments: the eastern cabinet of ministers, formed by the parliament backed by military warlord Jalifa Haftar, and the UN-backed Government of National Accord, led by Tripoli-based interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh.
The interim period established by the UN and based on the Geneva Accords expired on June 22 last year. A president and parliament should have been elected by then, but the elections, scheduled for December 2021, were cancelled for lack of the necessary constitutional framework.
Libya’s armed formations affiliated with opposing political forces openly engage in frequent clashes, resulting in multiple casualties. In August last year, 32 people were killed and 159 injured in Tripoli during fighting between the country’s rival administrations.