‘Situation under control’… or not? Libya seeks UN intervention as battles in Tripoli leave 110+ dead

At least 115 people have been killed and 383 others injured during a month of fighting between rival militant groups in Tripoli. The fractured country’s UN-backed government has urged the Security Council to intervene.

“The death toll could surge because of the critical condition of the injured and the continuing fighting,” Libya’s health ministry spokesman Wedad Abo Al-Niran told Reuters. The Tripoli-based armed groups, which back the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), however, claimed that they continuously patrol the city and maintain “the situation is under control.”

Tripoli’s southern residential areas, along the road leading to the destroyed airport, where the frontline currently lies, have suffered significant damage in the clashes, with houses shelled, cars torched and shops destroyed. Mortars, armored vehicles and trucks with mounted heavy machine guns are being deployed by the warring parties.

Many residents have fled their homes fearing for their lives and are now concerned that their property will be looted. In the meantime, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), at least 8,000 others remain trapped in the conflict, with no opportunity to escape.

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The Tripoli government acknowledged last week that it’s unable to restore order in the city on its own. The GNA addressed the UN mission to the country, asking it to “present the Security Council with the reality of the bloody events in Libya so that it can... protect the lives and property of civilians.”

The Seventh Brigade, or Kaniyat, from the eastern town of Tarhouna, launched an assault on the city in late August, allegedly triggered by media reports on the lavish lifestyles of local militant commanders from the Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigades (TRB) and the Nawasi.

Libya remains in chaos since the NATO-backed uprising led to the toppling and murder of the country’s long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The GNA is currently in control of Tripoli and the west of the country, while Eastern Lydia is run by the rival authorities, based in Tobruk. Although even they don't fully control the majority of the country, with dozens of militant groups ruling localities with the law of the gun.

Besides turning the country into a terrorist hotbed, the chaos in Libya has also opened the floodgates of human trafficking and mass migration into Europe. Even though the number of refugees taken by boat across the Mediterranean has somewhat dropped, after Italy agreed to train, equip, and finance the Libyan coastguard, nearly a quarter of migrants turned back by them have reportedly managed to flee detention facilities amid the mayhem in Tripoli.

READ MORE: Norway didn’t know much about Libya yet helped bomb it into chaos, state report finds

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has, meanwhile, expressed “alarm” over the situation in Tripoli and urged the sides to abide by the ceasefire deal, which was struck in early September. Guterres urged those responsible for “the violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” to be brought to justice.

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