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28 May, 2017 05:05

Tripoli death toll mounts as ‘Libya revolution hero’ clashes with UN-backed govt forces

Heavy battles continue to rage in Tripoli as rival factions duel for control of the Libyan capital. The assault on the UN-backed government is led by a Misrata commander whose success in the anti-Gadaffi rebellion was secured by the 2011 NATO intervention.

Clashes persisted in Tripoli Saturday between militias loyal to the self-proclaimed National Salvation Government (GNC) and forces loyal to the internationally-recognized Presidential Council (PC) which presides over the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).

READ MORE: Dozens killed, 120+ wounded in Tripoli as rival factions clash for Libyan capital (VIDEO)

Fierce fighting erupted on Friday after the GNC’s militia’s top commander, Salah Badi, launched an attack on the GNA-allied Central Security militia in an attempt to recapture parts of the capital, the Libya Herald reported.

The gunfire and artillery explosions then continued in the districts of Abu Salim, Salahedeen, and Qasr Bin Ghashthen through Saturday.

Forces supporting the UN-backed government announced they lost 52 of their fighters by Saturday morning the Libya Herald reported, adding, that “dozens” had been injured.

GNC forces lost at least 14 of their fighters from the city of Misrata as well as an unknown number of local militants.

The health ministry said at least 47 people were killed while 183 others were wounded. It is unclear how many of those were civilians or combatants. 

Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Libya condemned the violence in Tripoli, calling on all sides to cease hostilities, protect civilian lives and to work towards national reconciliation.

The UN official expressed full support for the PC as the “sole legitimate executive authority in Libya,” as stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 2259 (2015) and 2278 (2016). 

The assault of the capital is led by Badi – one of the Misrata’s top militant commanders who, actively supported by NATO’s aerial campaign, led his men against the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Since 2011, Misrata militias remain one the biggest armed groups in the country. Badi, who served as a Misratan member of Libya’s post-revolutionary parliament is now leading them into battle against the UN-backed government.

Named“a hero of the 2011 uprising against Muammer Gaddafi” by the Financial Times, Salah Badi is a leader of Fajr Libya (Dawn of Libya). He is “still fighting out the revolution,” according to an expert cited by the newspaper, as he backs neither the UN-backed current government nor the self-proclaimed National Salvation Government (GNC).

The Fajr Libya coalition is a controversial movement, as it embraces some fundamentalist groups.

“There are some pockets of fundamentalists in Fajr Libya’s orbit,” Badi told Al Jazeera in an interview. However, “the majority are the moderate ones.” 

Some voices in Egypt – who on Friday struck militant targets in neighboring Libya in retaliation for the murder of Coptic Christians by Islamist gunmen – believe that Misratan fighters are also terrorists.

“We should annihilate Misrata along with all those who people in it,” Egyptian MP Murtada Mansour said Saturday.

“Qatar and Turkey are sending weapons to Misrata fighters… Misrata, our target is Misrata, and all Libyans know that. We should support Khalifa Haftar and his army to help annihilate Misrata.”

Libya has descended into chaos after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, with multiple ‘governments’ and centers of powers competing for the control of the oil-rich country.

Libya has three major centers of power at present.

The first is the Presidential Council (PC), which has been based in Tripoli since March 30, 2016 and created following the signing of the UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in December 2015. The Presidential Council presides over the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

The second ‘government’ is the rival National Salvation Government (GNC) headed by Prime Minister Khalifa Ghwell. The GNC was installed after a coalition of armed groups supporting it won the battle for control of Tripoli in 2014.

The third center of power is based in Tobruk and is aligned with Egypt. It completely rejects the GNC, partially recognizes the authority of GNA, and is headed by an anti-Islamist general Khalifa Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army (LNA).

“Forces in Tripoli never accepted the authority of the GNA and at the same time, they have not been able to reach an agreement with the government that is based in Tobruk,” Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan-African News Wire told RT.

“So all of these identifiable factions have their own interests inside the country and of course, this is a direct result of the failed United States, British, EU, NATO policy to topple the Jamahiriya some six years ago.”

Azikiwe went on to blame Western powers for the continued destabilization of Libya.

“They (the Western powers) are still interfering in the internal affairs of Libya by imposing the Government of National Accord. They are still arming specific factions inside the country as well,” he said.

“Egypt has a role in this entire process. They have backed Khalifa Haftar. And of course, now Egypt is stepping up its bombardments inside of Libya itself because they too are getting impacted by the instability,” Azikiwe added.