The turmoil in Libya continued from Sunday into Monday as more clashes broke out in Tripoli near the country’s parliament building. Remnants of the country’s army have been battling assorted splinter groups described as hardline islamists. Sunday, the fighting was focused near the parliament as many groups are dissatisfied with the foreign influence and the lawless chaos since the fall of Gaddafi. The activity follows Friday’s clashes in Benghazi which killed at least 19 and wounded more than 100.
Armed gunmen loyal to rogue General Khalifa Haftar attacked Libya’s parliament on Sunday, announcing its suspension. Forces loyal to Haftar claim to be purging the nation of Islamist militias while authorities accuse them of staging a coup.
Two people were killed and 55 others injured in the clashes in Tripoli’s city center following the attack on parliament, Reuters quoted the country’s justice minister, Saleh Mergani, as saying. The minister also called on all parties to put down their weapons and begin dialogue, according to his televised news conference.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the health ministry said up to 66 people were wounded in the fighting.
A Libyan colonel loyal to Haftar denied the move was a coup and stated that parliament has no legitimacy and should hand over power to the 60-member body that was recently elected to rewrite Libya’s constitution.
“We, members of the army and revolutionaries (former rebels), announce the suspension of the General National Congress,” Mokhtar Fernana said in a statement broadcast on two private TV channels, according to AFP.
The justice minister condemned the attack on parliament, as well as the claim that parliament’s operations had been suspended. Marghani said that Libya “condemns expression of political opinion with armed force,” adding that Haftar’s Sunday attack was not connected to his Friday assaults in Benghazi.
Details of the Sunday attack are unclear, but Haftar’s spokesman said the general’s forces were responsible, adding that the assault was part of their ‘Dignity of Libya’ campaign to rid the country of all Islamist militants.
“These are members of the Libyan National Army,” Mohamed al-Hejazi said. The Libyan National Army is the name of the irregular forces loyal to Haftar.
The Libyan National Army also rejected recently appointed Ahmed Maiteeq as the country’s new prime minister on Sunday, according to AFP.
Benghazi’s Benina Airport
Battles for control of the country have centered around critical infrastructure which can be used as leverage.
Clashes broke out early on Monday in Benghazi in Libya’s volatile east with unknown attackers firing Grad rockets at the city’s Benina airport, army and security sources said.
Fighting was also reported in two other areas in Benghazi where irregular forces led by a renegade retired general and Islamist militants had already fought on Friday.
The residents of Libya are caught in the middle of the battles, which are beginning to spread to area that had been relatively peaceful despite no trustworthy leadership in the country.
Libya’s parliament has been paralysed for months by divisions between Islamist and nationalist parties.
Many Libyans are frustrated at the lack of progress toward democratic transition since the fall of Gaddafi, but In Tripoli people who the Associated Press spoke to also criticised the latest violence.
Local resident Mohamed Ali said: “We do not want any more militias or displays of arms. And Tripoli is considered a civilian city and we do not want anyone coming here and terrorising us, like what happened today.”
Another Tripoli resident, Khalid Yossef, echoed his complaint: “What is happening is a struggle for power, that’s it. And the people are the ones who are suffering and they are the real victims As you can hear there are bullets flying around, and it’s all down to your luck when that happens.”
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