Former Libya rebel groups clash in Tripoli, 5 dead

The absence of a central security administration has given militias a free hand in ruling areas under their control.

Tripoli: Two former Libyan rebel factions
day clashed in hours of gunbattles in central Tripoli that
left five fighters dead, a Tripoli military council official

Former rebels of Tripoli and a separate group of fighters
from the city of Misrata fought with machine guns,
rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns.

Col Walid Shouaib, a member of Tripoli Military Council,
said the clashes were triggered by arrest of a Misrata fighter
on New Year`s Eve by Tripoli fighters.

He was suspected of robbery and the Misrata fighters were
trying to free him.

A Misrata military council member, Mohammed al-Gressa,
said he feared a civil war. He said a meeting was taking place
between commanders of ex-rebels and the Tripoli military

"I am not optimistic because blood has been spilled," he
said. "I feel this looks like a civil
war." Others said the clashes were not that serious.

Disparate groups of former revolutionary fighters have
clashed repeatedly since the end of the eight-month civil war
that toppled Moammar Gadhafi`s regime in October.

Disbandment of these armed groups, which are divided by
the regions where the operate, has posed a challenge to Libyan

While playing a vital role in overseeing security of key
state institutions in the capital, the uncontrolled ownership
of weapons and the absence of a central security
administration has given the militias a free hand in ruling
areas under their control.

According to Shouaib, the tensions between the two
militias began on the night of the arrest when a group of
Misrata fighters tried to free the detained man, but failed.

Instead, they were arrested as well. A top Misrata commander
managed to mediate the release of all the men except for the
one arrested for robbery.

Today, another group of Misrata fighters made a second
attempt to free the man. They opened fire on a building in the
heart of Tripoli and used by the Tripoli military council.

After hours of gunbattles, three of Misrata fighters and two
from Tripoli armed men were killed, Shouaib said.

Witnesses said the Tripoli militia arrested six Misrata
men, brought them inside the council building, beat them up
and detained them. The Tripoli council is affiliated with the
national transitional government.

Government spokesman Ashur Shamis played down the scale
and severity of the armed confrontation and defended
revolutionaries as "innocent." Instead, he blamed clashes on

"These skirmishes take place because of individual
animosities but have nothing to do with the revolution or the
revolutionaries," Shamis said. "The real and original
revolutionaries are not part of it."