Gunfire, explosions reported near two military camps in Libyan capital

Reuters , Wednesday 21 May 2014

Smoke rises over the General National Congress building in Tripoli May 18, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Explosions and heavy fighting with anti-aircraft guns could be heard near two military camps in Libya's capital Tripoli early Wednesday, witnesses said, two days after gunmen had stormed parliament in the worst violence in months.

Residents reported several loud explosions near the al-Yarmouk barracks in the Salaheddin district but the cause was unclear. Gunfire and explosions later appeared to die down.

There was also heavy fighting near an army camp in the eastern Tajoura suburb. "We're hearing really loud explosions and gunshots near the camp but we don't know is shooting," a Tajoura resident said.

Other parts of the capital appeared to be quiet.

Tripoli had become calmer in the past two days after militiamen stormed the General National Congress (GNC) parliament and fought for six hours with other armed groups on the airport road on Sunday. Two people were killed, according to official data.

The major oil producer struggles with chaos with the central government unable to control militias who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority.

On Friday, renegade General Khalifa Haftar started what he called a military campaign against Islamist militants in Benghazi in the east and also claimed responsibility for the attack on parliament in Tripoli. Several military units have joined him, risking splitting the nascent regular forces and different militia.

In a political battle over who controls the OPEC producer, the government piled more pressure on parliament to suspend work until parliamentary elections.

The cabinet called on local councils across the North African country to support a proposal asking the GNC to freeze work until an upcoming national vote and repeat the election of the prime minister, according to a statement.

The government had already sent on Monday such a proposal to the GNC to force lawmakers to hand over power. Many Libyans blame political infighting in parliament for the country's bumpy transition since the 2011 war.

"We urge all council leaders to study the initiative as soon as possible," the cabinet said in a statement released on Wednesday.

Businessman Ahmed Maiteeq was named as the new premier two weeks ago in a chaotic vote disputed by many lawmakers. He comes from Misrata, a western city with strong links to the Muslim Brothers - a no-go for anti-Islamist militias in eastern and western Libya.

Haftar and other militias have demanded that parliament steps down.

The national election commission proposed late on Sunday to hold national parliamentary elections in June 25, an apparent attempt to ease tensions.

Split between Islamists and more moderate forces as well along tribal lines, parliament had said in February it would hold early elections, bowing to public pressure.

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