As concerns grow about the possibility of holding elections in December as planned, fighting broke out in Tripoli early on Friday between rival armed forces, witnesses said, the heaviest clashes in the Libyan capital since the conflict between eastern and western factions paused a year ago.
A resident of the Salah al-Din district in southern Tripoli said the shooting began at about 2.30 a.m. and continued through the morning with medium and light weapons. There was no immediate report of casualties.
Conflict in Tripoli between the armed groups who vie to control both territory and state institutions would further undermine the prospect of December elections as part of a plan to end a decade of chaos, violence and division.
Despite a cease-fire and progress earlier this year toward a political solution to Libya's crisis, there has been no movement toward integrating its myriad armed groups into a unified national military.
Libya is a major oil producer and though it has been able to maintain output over the past decade, disputes have sometimes shut down exports, including for months last year.
The new fighting pitted the 444 Brigade against the Stabilisation Support Force, two of the main forces in Tripoli, a witness said.
It follows major clashes last month in the city of Zawiya, west of Tripoli, and smaller incidents of friction or clashes inside the capital including a gunfight this week at a state institution.
In eastern Libya, controlled by putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar's eastern-based illegitimate Libyan National Army (LNA), there have also been shootings and other incidents of violence in recent months.
Libya has had little peace since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that overthrew longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and it divided in 2014 between warring eastern and western factions.
However, they agreed to a cease-fire last year and a new unity government that both sides backed was installed in March to prepare for national elections in December, moves seen as the best chance for peace in years.
The Tripoli-based unity government has however struggled to unify state institutions or prepare for elections, with the eastern-based parliament rejecting its budget and failing to agree on a constitutional basis for a vote.
General elections set for December in Libya may have to be postponed if parliament delays the ratification of electoral law, Libya's foreign minister said Tuesday.
The development comes a day after the United Nations envoy to Libya warned that time was running short to prepare for the polls, after recent talks in Geneva exposed deep divisions over when to hold elections, what elections to hold and on what constitutional grounds.
"As a government, we have put in place everything required to move toward elections, providing financial, logistical and material support to the elections commission," Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush told a news conference in Algiers, after meeting with Algerian officials.
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