Dozens of gunmen storm the capital’s hotel, Tripoli, as divisions of the unit government surface.
Dozens of gunmen staged a show of strength in a hotel used as a headquarters by Libya’s presidential council as the nation’s deep divisions resurfaced.
The gunmen were seen on Friday afternoon at the entrance of the Hotel Corinthia, in the heart of the capital of Tripoli, according to images on social media. The local press labeled them “militias.”
Presidential council spokeswoman Najwa Wheba confirmed that gunmen stormed “one of the headquarters where the council meets”.
He told Libya’s LANA news agency that “no one was injured,” as the council does not work on Fridays, the weekly rest day in Libya.
The show of strength occurs when the setting up of a United Nations Security Council calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops and mercenaries that reactivates divisions within the unity government.
A unified government?
On Monday, Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush, who is from the east, angered many in Tripoli and the west with a call for Turkey to withdraw the troops it deployed during the civil war.
These troops are widely credited in the Libyan capital for finally defeating a devastating one-year offensive by Eastern Military Commander Khalifa Haftar in June last year. He received support from several countries, especially Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Friday’s incident underscores the continuing risks to unity government. Both the Council of the Presidency and the Government of National Unity have faced internal criticism and challenges to their authority.
In eastern Libya, Haftar and his Libyan national army (LNA) continue to dominate for almost a year after the fall of their 14-month offensive to seize the capital. In Tripoli, armed groups that pushed Haftar from the capital with Turkish support still control the streets.
Foreign mercenaries remain entrenched on both sides of the heavily fortified front line, despite international calls for warring sides to withdraw them from the country.
Last week, Foreign Minister al-Mangoush reiterated the call on all foreign fighters to march alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Turkey says its military presence in Libya is different from that of other foreign forces because it was invited by the previous UN-recognized government and will not withdraw until others do.
Before the hotel was stormed on Friday, an operating room of the armed groups in Tripoli told social media that it was meeting to discuss “irresponsible statements” by al-Mangoush and later asked GNU to formally reject Haftar.
An October ceasefire created a unified government – led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and the presidential council – as part of a United Nations roadmap for the December elections.
In March, the UN Security Council called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops and mercenaries, which are estimated to reach 20,000.
Libya was plunged into chaos after dictator Muammar Gaddafi was long overdue and assassinated in a NATO-backed insurgency in 2011, and over the years the conflict has attracted several foreign powers.
Finally, in March, a unity unity government was created that replaced rival administrations in the east and west and aims to lead Libya to the elections.