Well over a decade after the Obama-Hillary led NATO military intervention in Libya in 2011, which resulted in the overthrow and violent street execution of Muammar Gaddafi, the capital of Tripoli has once again fallen into chaos as gunfights between rival factions threaten a fragile truce.
For years oil-rich Libya has been fought over by two rival governments, one based in the east and the UN-recognized national government in Tripoli. This week's breakout in fighting began when according to Al Jazeera, "Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister three months ago by the East-based House of Representatives, arrived in Tripoli in the early morning hours with cabinet members and was reportedly accompanied by the Tripoli-based Nawasi Brigade militia."
Parallel prime minister Fathi Bashagha: I never resort to guns to gain power pic.twitter.com/mbeHpThRCB
— The Libya Observer (@Lyobserver) May 17, 2022
Bashagha was forced to leave the capital a mere four hours after arriving given his presence triggered attacks by local rival militias.
Currently, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah is the prime minister of the UN/US-backed Government of National Unity (GNU) in Tripoli, but his eastern rival Tobruk-based parliament says his term has ended, and that Bashagha must take his rightful post.
However 'interim' PM Dbeibah has refused to hand over power until a properly elected government is in place. He's instead described Bashagha's bid as illegal, part of a "desperate attempt to spread terror and chaos."
Rival leaders – parliament-designated Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha (left) and Interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah:
A GNU government statement slammed Bashagha's attempt as aggression by 'illegal armed group' that tried to infiltrate the capital in the middle of the night.
According to a description by the local Libyan Observer:
Residents of Tripoli woke up to the sounds of heavy weapons and automatic gunfire. The Education Ministry announced the suspension of studies until further notice.
The GNU statement disclosed that orders have been circulated to all security and military units for zero tolerance towards anyone who threatens the security and safety of civilians.
The GNU additionally said this was an attempt to disrupt the legitimate elections process. However, the eastern-based parliament has said Dbeibah has already tried and failed multiple times to install a government.
During some years of the past decade of near anarchy in the wake of the NATO-led regime change, Libya has seen up to four rival governments and literally hundreds of militias vying for control. At the same time many have been accused of overseeing campaigns of terror and horrific war crimes.