March 19, 2016 / 9:23 AM / 2 years ago

Heavy gunfire in Libya capital as rivals clash

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Heavy gunfire broke out in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Saturday after two rival armed groups clashed in the city over the killing of one of their fighters, a local security source and witnesses said.

The violence illustrated the complex security situation in Tripoli where several quasi-official groups operate as law enforcement controlling different districts, and clashes sometimes occur over territory or personal disputes.

The clashes left several cars burning in the streets between the Zawiyat Addahmani area and Bab Azizziya before the capital later returned to calm, witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Black smoke rose over the area and military vehicles were seen patrolling through streets nearby.

The clashes were between Zawiyat Addahmani’s Alfirqa Assadisah or the Sixth Team Security brigade and Bab Azizziya’s Salah Al-Burki brigade in Camp 77, a security source said.

Libya is in chaos with two rival factions struggling for control, one in Tripoli and the other to the east each running their own government. A United Nations-brokered government of national unity based for now in Tunis is negotiating to enter Tripoli in an effort to end the conflict.

With no national army, each faction is backed by loose coalitions of former rebels who five years ago fought together to topple Muammar Gaddafi but have since fallen into internecine fighting.

Tripoli’s self-declared government and several of the armed factions in the city have rejected the U.N.-backed presidential council and warned them to stay away from the capital.

Tripoli has been under control of an armed alliance called Libya Dawn since 2014 when its forces drove rivals out of the city, set up their own government and reinstated the former parliament as part of power struggle for control.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Ros Russell

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