A new round of clashes between rival militias in Libya’s capital left at least five people dead on Wednesday, the health ministry said, four months after fighting killed over 100.
Hours earlier, the UN’s mission in Libya warned against fresh violence in Tripoli as tensions rose between rival militias, despite a September ceasefire deal that ended clashes in which at least 117 people were killed.
“The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) strongly condemns the recent military mobilisation of forces in southern Tripoli and is monitoring the situation closely,” it said in a statement.
“UNSMIL warns parties against any breach of the ceasefire agreement concluded on 04 and 09 September 2018.”
The forces of Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar on Wednesday announced a military operation to “purge” jihadists and criminal gangs from the south of the conflict-hit nation.
A spokesperson for the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) said its fighters had advanced in “several regions in the south” from an airbase some 650 kilometres from the capital Tripoli.
The aim is to “assure security for inhabitants in the south-west from terrorists, be they the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda, as well as criminal gangs,” spokesperson Ahmed al-Mesmari said.
The LNA said it was also looking to secure petroleum facilities and tackle flows of clandestine migrants heading northwards to the Mediterranean coast.
It called on armed groups in the target area, mainly made up of tribal fighters, to withdraw from military and civilian installations.
Military sources told AFP that numerous LNA units had taken up positions in recent days around the region’s main city of Sabha.
Fierce battles between militias from the capital and from other areas in the west of the country rocked Tripoli between the end of August and the UN-brokered truce deal in early September.
The violence also left hundreds wounded.
The health ministry did not specify whether those killed on Wednesday were civilians or fighters.
Witnesses had reported sporadic shooting and road closures after the Tripoli Protection Force alliance warned on Facebook it would “repel an attack” by a rival group that had failed to withdraw from the capital.
The Seventh Brigade militia, from the town of Tarhuna, has maintained its positions in Tripoli since the ceasefire agreement.
The UN said that “any party initiating a confrontation will be held fully responsible” and insisted it “will take action as necessary” to halt any violence.
Libya has been torn between rival administrations and a myriad of militias since the overthrow and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
The main armed groups in Tripoli say they are loyal to the internationally backed Government of National Accord (GNA), but officials have struggled to exert real control over the fighters.
The GNA announced security reforms in the wake of the bloodshed last year, aimed at curbing the power of militias in the capital.
A second administration in the east of Libya is backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar and his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army.
The UN is pushing for elections to help stabilise Libya, but chronic violence has delayed plans for a vote.