The Libyan capital Tripoli remained tense on Thursday as militia alliances squared up for more fighting with the UN chief to the North African country expressing alarm at the unfolding events.
United Nations Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) head Martin Kobler called for an immediate calm and implementation of the ceasefire agreement reached last week.
The pending confrontations followed previous bloody clashes in the capital between the various warring militias which had been brought to an end following the intervention of Libya’s Presidency Council (PC).
Tripoli was once again tense as militias leaders called their men up in preparation for combat while militia members erected sand or container roadblocks and armoured vehicles took up positions, the Libya Herald reported on Wednesday evening.
The barricades were focused near the former headquarters of the late, deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the Nasr forest.
The roads around the Rixos complex where Khalifa Ghwell has set up his government were also blocked by shipping containers.
Members of the new Libyan National Guard and other supporters of Ghwell’s resurrected National Salvation government, such as Salah Al Burki Misratan militia, appeared to have mobilised in expectation of an attack by combined Tripoli forces including Haythem Tajouri’s Tripoli Revolutionaries’ Brigade and the militia run by Abdul Ghani Al Kikli both of which nominally support the PC.
As the situation escalated residents in the Tripoli neighbourhood of Abu Saleem, a stronghold of Gaddafi die-hard supporters, fled after being warned by militias of the impending dangers.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Daily Telegraph paper reported that members of the Islamic State (IS) were regrouping in southern Libya, with the support of Al Qaeda, – and preparing for further attacks.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, one of the world’s most wanted men, was reported to be behind the regrouping.
Belmokhtar is an Algerian leader of the group Al Murabitoun, a former military commander of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, or North-West Africa, and smuggler and weapons dealer.
He was twice convicted and sentenced to death in absentia under separate charges in Algerian courts: in 2007 for terrorism and in 2008 for murder; in 2004 he was sentenced to life imprisonment in Algeria for terrorist activities.
The alliance of the two extremist groups in Libya appears to fly in the face of the purported animosity between the Al Qaeda and the IS leaderships.
Ayman Al Zawahiri, the head of Al Qaeda, recently launched a blistering public attack on IS’s brutal methods and propaganda, branding them “liars”.
Nevertheless, according to Mahdi Barghati, the defence minister of the internationally-recognised, and UN-backed government in Libya, the two groups are actively cooperating.
“IS and Al Qaeda have never attacked each other here and now we have evidence that they are actively cooperating,” Barghathi told the Telegraph.
“Al-Qaeda is providing logistics and support to help the IS re-group and launch attacks.”
– African News Agency (ANA)