Libya capital rocked by battle as rival PM vies for power

TRIPOLI: Gunfire rocked Libya’s capital for several hours on Tuesday as a rival prime minister attempted to oust interim premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah, threatening another escalation in the war-torn country.

Fathi Bashagha landed in Tripoli in the early hours of Tuesday and tried to take it by force, sparking pre-dawn clashes between armed groups supporting him and those backing Dbeibah.

Libya has had two opposing adminstrations and prime ministers since February, the latest trouble in the oil-rich North African nation since the chaos that followed a 2011 revolt that toppled dictator Moamer Qadhafi.

Hours after landing, Bashagha left citing the “security and safety of citizens”, as the United Nations, European Union and United States appealed for calm.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the fighting, but correspondents saw burned-out cars and military convoys later on Tuesday morning.

Dbeibah, based in Tripoli in the west, was appointed under a troubled UN-led peace process early last year to lead a transition to elections set for December, but the vote was indefinitely postponed.

In February, parliament based in Tobruk in the east appointed rival premier and former interior ministry Fathi Bashagha to take his place, arguing that Dbeibah’s mandate had ended.

Dbeibah has refused to hand over power except to an elected administration.

Both men come from the western city of Misrata and are backed by different armed groups in the capital.

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