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Clashes broke out in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, overnight, between militia forces just days after a deal that saw the country relaunch oil production and exports after a months-long force majeure.
At least nine people had been confirmed dead and 25 injured, according to various local media reports, by Friday morning, with civilians caught in the crossfire between two militia groups, the Special Deterrence Force (SDF/Rada) and the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigades (TRB).
While the ultimate motive behind the clashes remains unclear at the time of writing, Libyan media speculate that fighting ensued over the SDF’s abduction of a TRB member and turf war that has seen the SDF assume control of some TRB positions in the capital.
Tripoli’s Mitiga airport has been closed down, with flights diverted to the Misrata airport.
By early Friday, clashes had reportedly died down after intervention from Ministry of Defense forces, though sporadic gunfire could still be heard on the streets, according to the Libya Observer.
Libya’s Presidential Council released a statement Friday calling on all parties to cease fire and return to their headquarters.
Some media accused interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah of being too soft on militias that are subsidized by the government through oil revenues.
The clashes come after an apparent deal between General Khalifa Haftar–the strongman of the east whose forces control many of the country’s oil facilities–and his former enemy, Dbeibah, the interim prime minister, to replace the leadership of the National Oil Company (NOC) and lift force majeure. The new deal and shifting alliances have shaken Tripoli’s numerou militias, who are now vying for position.
On Wednesday, the first tankers arrived in Libya to load oil for export, ending a force majeure on key oilfields and ports that had been in place since April.
Libya now expects to double crude output to 1.2 million bpd in a matter of 10 days, assuming no widespread eruption of violence as various factions jockey for power.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com