Libya fighting displaces tens of thousands

Three years after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya is struggling with instability as two rival governments compete for power and armed factions battle for control of territory.

TRIPOLI // Fighting in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi and in the west of the country has displaced tens of thousands since the summer, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.

Three years after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya is struggling with instability as two rival governments compete for power and armed factions battle for control of territory.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced to leave Benghazi, with more displaced inside, following violence between Islamist militias and forces who have sided with Libya’s internationally-recognised government in the east.

“Services at the main hospitals have been severely disrupted by the unsettled security conditions, the departure of foreign workers and the acute shortage of medical supplies,” said Antoine Grand, head of the ICRC’s delegation to Libya, who is based in Tunis.

Four hundred and fifty people have now been killed in fighting in Benghazi since troops led by former army general Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive against Islamists in the city. Mr Haftar’s forces, which are aligned to the internationally-recognised government of Prime Minister Abdullah Al Thinni, have been bombing the area for weeks.

Fighting to the south and west of the capital Tripoli, in the western part of Libya, and in Sabha and Ubari in the south, is also displacing residents.

Continuing violence has caused frequent fuel, power and water shortages, increased food prices and damaged infrastructure. The ICRC said deteriorating security has made it difficult for humanitarian organisations to reach victims.

Most foreign governments and international organisations pulled their staff and diplomats out of Libya over the summer when a group called Libya Dawn seized the capital and set up its own self-declared parliament and government.

The country’s elected House of Representatives and Mr Al Thinni’s government are now operating out of the east.

On Wednesday, Mr Al Thinni said his government’s forces were advancing on Tripoli from the west and would also seize the main border crossing to Tunisia.

“Our troops are moving towards Tripoli to liberate it,” he said, claiming that forces had seized a town west of the capital.

Mr Al Thinni’s forces, which are allied to a former general and tribesmen in the western city of Zintan, have previously launched air strikes on Tripoli.

UN special envoy Bernadino Leon said on Monday that he planned to launch a new round of peace talks next week, bringing together the rival governments for the first time.

* Reuters

Published: December 11, 2014 04:00 AM

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