Libya Announces State of Emergency As Violence Rages and Hundreds Escape Prison in Tripoli
Rebel factions are clashing in Tripoli, Libya (Photo: EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Grp)

At least 39 people have been killed and nearly 100 others wounded in ongoing battles between rival militias in Libya’s capital of Tripoli. Libya's UN-backed government has had to resort to imposing a state of emergency in Tripoli, and its outskirts after several days of fierce fighting between rival armed groups.

"Due to the danger of the current situation and for the sake of the public interest, the presidential council declares a state of emergency ... to protect and secure civilians, public and private possessions and vital institutions," the Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement on Sunday.

And on Sunday rockets hit a camp for displaced people in Tripoli, leaving at least two dead and five injured from the same family, according to emergency services and witnesses.

The camp is home to hundreds of displaced people from the Libyan city of Taourga who were forced into mass exile due to their support for Libya's long-time ruler Moamer Gaddhafi. "Most of the families have left the camp fearing more rockets," Khaled Omrane, a camp resident, told AFP.

According to emergency services, at least 23 rockets fell on the capital on Friday and Saturday causing fresh casualties.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for an end to violence in Libya in accordance with a UN-brokered cease-fire agreement.

“The Secretary-General condemns the continued escalation of violence in and around Libya’s capital and, in particular, the use by armed groups of indiscriminate shelling leading to the death and injury of civilians, including children,” a statement from Guterres’ office said.

“The Secretary-General calls on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and abide by the cease-fire agreement brokered by the United Nations and the Reconciliation Committees.”

The country is currently governed by two rival authorities: the Tripoli-based GNA, which is recognised by the UN as Libya's official government; and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives in the east of the country, which has the support of renegade General Khalifa Haftar.

The fighting in the capital erupted last week when armed groups from Tripoli clashed with others from a town to the south, vying for power in the administration based in the country's west.

Street battles on Monday and Tuesday pitted the Seventh Brigade, or Kaniyat, from Tarhouna, a town 65km southeast of Tripoli, against the Tripoli Revolutionaries' Brigades and the Nawasi, two of the capital's largest factions.

In the ensuing violence, some 400 detainees escaped after a riot on Sunday at a prison in the southern suburbs of the Libyan capital Tripoli, theatre of a week of deadly battles, police said.

"The detainees were able to force open the doors and leave" as fighting between rival militias raged near the prison of Ain Zara, police said in a statement, without specifying what crimes the escapees had committed.

Guards were unable to prevent the prisoners escaping as they feared for their own lives, the statement said. A police official contacted by AFP was unable to provide further details.

Most detainees at the prison have been convicted of common crimes or were supporters of former dictator Moamer Gaddhafi, found guilty of killings during the uprising that toppled his regime in 2011. (With agency inputs)