New clashes flared between rival militias south of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday, September 18, causing widespread power outages, the national electricity firm said.
The fighting underscored the fragility of a United Nations-backed ceasefire reached earlier this month after days of deadly violence between armed groups in the capital, beset by turmoil since the fall of long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport, according to witnesses including an AFP journalist.
Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the North African nation’s south and west.
Intense fighting which broke out in Tripoli late last month killed at least 63 people and wounded 159 others – mostly civilians – before the ceasefire came into effect on September 4.
Last week, Tripoli’s only working airport came under rocket fire just days after reopening following the truce.
Mitiga International Airport, located in a former military base that includes a prison, is currently controlled by the Special Deterrence Forces, a Salafist militia which serves as Tripoli’s police force and has been involved in clashes around the capital.
Interior Minister Abdessalam Ashour said Monday that a “regular force” would be tasked with securing the airport.
U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame later reported 14 ceasefire violations around Tripoli, but sought to play them down, saying the deal had been “generally respected.”
Tripoli’s main airport has been out of action since it was severely damaged by similar clashes in 2014.
Since Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, oil-rich Libya has been rocked by violence between dozens of armed groups vying for control of its cities and vast oil resources.
A U.N.-brokered agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015 established the Government of National Accord in a bid to ease the chaos.
But deep divisions remain between the GNA and rivals including military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Libya and backs a competing authority.
The GNA last week announced a series of measures to secure the capital and curb the influence of militias over state institutions and banks.
With reporting from AFP