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Rival Militias Clash In Libyan Capital

Libyan capital Tripoli witnessed heavy fighting between rival militia groups briefly on Wednesday, signaling the continued failure of the new Libyan rulers to enforce their authority in the country after the ouster of Col. Moammar Qadhafi's regime in an armed revolt last year.

Officials said fighting broke out near office buildings and five-star hotels in central Tripoli's Tariq al-Shat district. Media reports suggested that the fighting was between militiamen from the city of Misrata and a rival group from Zintan.

It is still unclear what caused the fighting between the two groups, which had fought alongside each other in the battle to topple the Qadhafi regime. Nevertheless, there were no reports of casualties in Wednesday's brief fighting.

The Misrata brigade controls a police academy building in Tripoli, while militia from Zintan is using a nearby beach house, owned earlier by Qadhafi's son Saadi, as their barracks. Shortly after the fighting erupted, security forces controlled by the Libyan Interior Ministry cordoned off the area and brought the situation under control.

The developments come nearly five months after the Qadhafi regime was overthrown in a NATO-backed armed revolution in August. Qadhafi, who ruled the oil-rich North African country for 42 years with an iron fist, was shot dead on October 20 by revolutionary fighters on the outskirts of his hometown Sirte.

Tripoli has been under the control of several armed militia groups since the ouster of the Qadhafi regime. At least five people were killed last month in the city after heavy fighting erupted between rival militia groups.

Continued presence of armed militia groups in and around Tripoli has raised concerns about the possible outbreak of violence in the Libyan capital. There are also concerns that the arms left behind by Qadhafi forces as well as those supplied to the revolutionaries by their supporters may now land up in other African nations facing Islamist insurgencies and other armed rebel movements.

The possibility of the Libyan arms ending up in the possession of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the branch of the global terror outfit in North Africa, has already triggered tensions in the region. AQIM is believed to have established itself in the Sahara desert between Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Last Month, Ian Martin, the U.N. special envoy to Libya, had warned the Security Council that the continued presence of armed "revolutionary brigades" and abundance of weapons in Libya were threatening its security.

Martin also noted that Libya's transitional government is still struggling to enforce its authority in the country, and stressed that it has so far failed to contain the violence unleashed by the revolutionary brigades that helped in deposing Qadhafi.

by RTT Staff Writer

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