Libya: UN-backed GNA forces overrun Tripoli militia headquarters

Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed unity government seized the headquarters of a rival militia loyal to former National Salvation Government on Wednesday in a third day of intense fighting for control of Tripoli.

The capital has seen exchanges of rocket and artillery fire between unity government forces and a militia loyal to former Prime Minister Khalifa Ghweil.

Since taking power from Ghweil’s administration in March 2016, the Government of National Accord (GNA) has secured the backing of powerful militias in the capital, but some districts remain outside its control.

Ghweil refuses to recognize the GNA’s authority.

Government forces launched an assault on his headquarters in the Guest Palace, a complex of luxury villas in the city center, and overran it after heavy fighting.

“It’s over. Ghweil’s forces have pulled out and GNA forces have taken control of the area,” a witness told AFP.

A security source confirmed the militia’s withdrawal, but had no immediate word on any casualties.

It was the third straight day of fighting between government forces and the militia, who are mainly drawn from Ghweil’s hometown, third city Misrata.

Gunfire and explosions were heard from multiple parts of the capital.

A rocket hit the Al-Khadhra Hospital without causing any casualties, a medic said.

Gunmen stormed the headquarters of Al-Nabaa television, a privately owned channel known for its conservative leanings, witnesses said.

The channel remained off the air on Wednesday. The fighting brought life in the capital to a standstill, with schools and shops closed.

UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler on Tuesday tweeted an appeal for an “immediate cease-fire,” saying the fighting put civilians at “grave risk.”

Clashes erupted in the neighborhoods of Hay Al-Andalus and Gargaresh on Monday evening, prompting the government to deploy tanks.

Tripoli’s GNA-allied police said security forces in Tripoli were battling “outlaw groups that are destabilizing security and inciting chaos.”

“It was our duty to eradicate them and fight them to stabilize the capital,” the police added.

Heavy fighting has also rocked the east of Libya where forces loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar announced their recapture of two key oil ports on Tuesday.