Libya declares state of emergency in Tripoli as death toll climbs
Benghazi: Libya’s United Nations-backed government on Sunday announced a state of emergency in the capital Tripoli as the death toll from fighting in recent days reached 39, including civilians caught in the crossfire.
The fighting erupted last week between armed groups from Tripoli against others from a town to the south vying for power in Libya’s capital. The health ministry said the fighting had also wounded 96 others.
Sunday’s statement by the government urged rival militias to stop the fighting and abide by a UN-brokered ceasefire.
Libyan authorities had earlier closed Tripoli airport after rockets were fired nearby, a spokesman for the state-run Libyan Airlines said.
Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed the dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The country is currently governed by rival authorities in Tripoli and the east, each backed by an array of militias that wield real power on the ground.
The United States, France, Italy and Britain on Saturday condemned the escalating violence, warning that armed groups that undermined Libyan stability would be made accountable.
“These attempts to weaken the legitimate Libyan authorities and hinder the ongoing political process are not acceptable,” Washington, Paris, Rome and London said in a joint statement published by the French foreign ministry.
“We are calling on the armed groups to immediately stop all military action and warn those who seek to undermine stability, in Tripoli or elsewhere in Libya, that they will be made accountable for it.”
Stability in Libya is important for the European Union, with the country in recent years becoming a thoroughfare for African migrants attempting to reach Europe.
The United Nations has been struggling to help lay the groundwork for a new constitution and elections – a process rocked in May when the electoral commission offices in Triploi were hit by an Islamic State bomb that killed 14 people.