Rival factions’ clash paralyzes Libya’s capital, Tripoli

Tripoli (Caasimada Online) – Libya’s capital, Tripoli, is in the midst of intensified clashes between two major armed groups affiliated with the Tripoli-based government.

These confrontations have necessitated the suspension of flights from the city’s sole civilian airport, Mitiga.

According to an interior ministry official, who requested anonymity while speaking to AFP, the conflict erupted between the 444 Brigade and the Al-Radaa Force, also known as the Special Deterrence Force.

This official reported that “clashes affected several areas of Tripoli’s eastern suburbs, in Ain Zara south of Tripoli, pitting the forces of 444 Brigade against those of Al-Radaa.”

This clash comes on the heels of the arrest of the 444 Brigade commander, Mahmud Hamza, at Mitiga airport, an area under Al-Radaa’s control.

The official noted that “tensions arose” soon after the announcement of Hamza’s arrest. However, whether this arrest was carried out under judicial orders or for other reasons was not specified.

No immediate casualty reports were available from the fighting, which persisted into Tuesday morning.

However, the official reported that this unrest had necessitated “the closure of roads around Mitiga airport.” Furthermore, plumes of smoke were visible in Tripoli, and gunfire resonated in the densely populated suburb of Ain Zara.

This violence subsequently spread to areas near the airport and Tripoli University, prompting the institution to suspend classes.

Air traffic at Mitiga airport came to a standstill due to the fighting. Consequently, flights were diverted to Misrata, located approximately 180 kilometers (110 miles) to the east, and parked aircraft were relocated for safety.

The warring factions

The 444 Brigade, which is affiliated with Libya’s defense ministry, is reputed to be the North African country’s most disciplined armed group.

It maintains control over Tripoli’s southern suburbs and the cities of Tarhuna and Bani Walid, effectively securing roads that connect the capital to the south region of the country.

In contrast, the Al-Radaa Force, under the command of Abdel Rauf Karah, operates as a powerful, ultra-conservative militia that effectively functions as Tripoli’s police force.

This force, responsible for arresting suspected jihadists and common criminals alike, positions itself as independent of the interior and defense ministries.

It controls central and eastern Tripoli, Mitiga air base, the civilian airport, and a prison.

A country in turmoil

This recent surge in violence illustrates the broader strife that has plagued Libya since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising.

The nation has been fragmented by divisions, exacerbated by the proliferation of armed groups with shifting allegiances.

A Libyan political analyst, Dr. Amal Obeidi of the University of Benghazi, stressed the severity of the situation in a recent interview: “Libya’s delicate political fabric is under strain, with the proliferation of armed groups playing a pivotal role in the ongoing instability,” she said.

In this fraught context, the clashes between the 444 Brigade and the Al-Radaa Force are not merely isolated incidents; they are symptomatic of the volatile and complex political and security landscape that continues to define contemporary Libya.