Fighters from the industrial city of Misurata and the western mountain city of Zintan engaged in what witnesses and security officials described as a ferocious gunfight, purportedly over a prisoner.
“I’m not sure whether fighters from Misurata or Zintan started it,” said Naji Arabi, a 54-year-old electricity company employee. He was driving home from work about 4pm when he encountered the gunfire. “Obviously it’s scary, because I have five children.”
Libya has been bedevilled by the transitional government’s seeming inability to establish authority over the well-armed former rebel fighters who overthrew Muammer Gaddafi in a campaign aided by Nato air strikes.
Heavily armed militias have stepped into the vacuum, carving the country into local fiefdoms. Their fighters express loyalty to the ruling national transitional council but answer only to their own commanders.
Though the numbers of burly young men driving pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns have diminished over the past three months since the formal declaration of victory over Colonel Gaddafi, violence continues to erupt.
Several militias from outside the capital have set up bases in Tripoli. They clash with each other intermittently, often because of disputes over who controls which neighbourhoods of the city.
The latest incident took place in one of the most upmarket districts of the capital, at a beach resort next to a hotel in the heart of the city, witnesses and security officials said. It was the first time in weeks that a major gun battle had broken out right in the centre of the capital
Ambulance sirens could be heard and plumes of smoke rose from the area of the fighting.
The exact cause of the exchange was murky. Misurata fighters were occupying the beach, which was once controlled by Saadi Gaddafi, one of the slain former ruler’s sons.
According to security officials, Misurata fighters were holding a prisoner whom the Zintan militiamen claimed. Fighting erupted, including an explosion probably caused by a rocket-propelled grenade launch, witnesses said.
Others said the fighting erupted over control of the resort complex, which lies next to a new, but never opened, Marriott hotel built before Libya’s February 2011 uprising.
Security officials told news agencies that no one was hurt in the fighting. But one of the security officials guarding the beach after the fighting ended said at least one person was killed.
OH as long as they were only dead...and not hurt, all should be ok then.