Libya: Fathi Bashagha to base his government in Sirte

Parliament-backed prime minister chooses new seat after attempt to enter Tripoli is repelled

Fathi Bashagha in Tripoli last year. Reuters
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Libya’s parliament-appointed prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, will hold Cabinet meetings in the city of Sirte after being pushed back from the capital by militias aligned with a UN-appointed interim administration in Tripoli, a source close to his government said.

Mr Bashagha, a former interior minister who was chosen as prime minister by the parliament in February, tried to enter the Libyan capital on Tuesday, triggering fighting that killed at least one person. The Tripoli-based interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, refuses to recognise Mr Bashagha's appointment and said he would give way only to an elected government.

“Following his attempt to enter the capital Tripoli, Mr Bashagha decided to go back to Sirte to avoid any further human loss and clashes,” the government source told The National.

The source said the Bashagha government chose to base themselves in Sirte because it had infrastructure, such as government buildings and hotels, and because of its location on the coast between eastern and western Libya.

He is expected to hold his first Cabinet meeting in Sirte on Sunday.

In a video released on Wednesday, Mr Bashagha said he did not regret his attempt to seat his government in Tripoli, but regretted that a man’s life was lost.

He said he had waited for more than 80 days after his appointment before making the attempt.

Mr Dbeibah described Tuesday's developments as an armed group’s “desperate attempt to spread terror and chaos” in the Libyan capital.

Both governments reported that at least one man was killed by gunfire and five others were wounded in the clashes.

Mr Dbeibah sacked his director of military intelligence, Maj Gen Osama Al Juwaili, on Wednesday, a document from his office shows.

The eastern-based parliament says Mr Dbeibah's mandate expired after elections scheduled for December 24 could not be held because of political disputes.

Damaged buildings in Sirte, Libya, November 4, 2021.  Reuters

Jamal Shallouf, a Libyan researcher and head of the Silvium Foundation for Research and Studies, said Mr Bashagha's choice of Sirte to host his government was an "acceptable decision" given its security readiness and administrative infrastructure.

“Sirte is ready despite its damage during the war at the hands of ISIS, especially since this city was to be the seat of the Presidential Council and the Government of National Unity, but the pretexts of not maintaining the headquarters were a reason for the executive authority to remain in the capital, Tripoli,” Mr Shallouf told local media outlets.

Updated: May 19, 2022, 12:56 PM