Tripoli clashes caused extensive damage to property, cars – district mayor

A damaged kitchen is seen following recent clashes between armed factions in Tripoli's Abu Selem district, Libya, March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Hani Amara

Heavy clashes last week between armed factions in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, resulted in severe damage to dozens of buildings and hundreds of vehicles, a district mayor said on Wednesday.

The clashes erupted in the Abu Salim district and continued for two days. Heavy weapons including tanks were used on the streets, and some residents were trapped in their homes, with aid workers unable to evacuate them.

Since Libya’s 2011 uprising, Tripoli has been controlled by numerous armed groups with shifting loyalties. Many of their members receive state salaries after various governments added them to the payrolls of the interior and defence ministries.

Some are aligned with a U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) that arrived in Tripoli last year, but fighting is often sparked by local disputes and power struggles.

Abu Salim mayor Abdulrahman al-Hamdi told Reuters that the unusually intense fighting that erupted last Thursday was triggered by members of competing armed factions capturing each other.

Authorities are still working to assess the number of casualties and the damage, Hamdi said. He said at least six people had been killed, but stressed that this was only an initial assessment.

“Unfortunately hundreds of citizens’ vehicles and dozens of houses were damaged, with some of them completely destroyed or burnt,” he said.

A electricity sub-station in the area had also suffered significant damage and some stored electricity cabling was destroyed by fire.

The GNA is one of several centres of power in Libya. As it has struggled to assert its authority, armed groups have retained their grip on the capital.

Hamdi said a ceasefire was eventually brokered with the help of the GNA’s leadership, or Presidential Council (PC).

“The municipality has no capabilities or budget so we have asked the PC to urgently provide a three or four months’ rent to those who lost their houses until repairs are completed,” Hamdi said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Aidan Lewis Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)