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Calm temporarily returned to Tripoli on Monday morning after weekend clashes left an estimated 32 people dead and scores of others wounded as violence erupted between forces loyal to the country’s rival prime ministers.
Clashes erupted late on Friday and continued through Saturday as rival governments fight for power.
The renewed violence comes shortly after indications from newly appointed eastern-backed prime minister Fathi Bashagha, who initially set up his government in Sirte - the gateway to the Oil Crescent - that he would again attempt to enter Tripoli to assume power from current interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
Earlier this year, Bashagha attempted, unsuccessfully, to enter Tripoli and assume power.
Dbeibah has said he would not hand over power to Bashagha, and would only step down after an election that led to a new administration.
The exact cause of the clashes remains unclear, with various officials blaming various factions.
There have been some allegations in local media that Dbeibah’s attempts to “cleanse” Tripoli of militia groups that may not be supporting him led to the clashes.
In a statement on Sunday carried by LibyaUpdate, Bashagha blamed Dbeibah’s “outlaw criminal groups” for terrorizing Tripoli. He also accused Dbeibah of abusing oil revenues and using the country’s resources to support these armed groups.
There is clearly a transformation underway among militias now realigning themselves since Dbeibah staged a restructuring of Libya’s National Oil Company (NOC), leading to a lifting of the force majeure that had kept significant volumes of oil off the market.
Since then, militia loyalties have begun to shift, causing extreme security uncertainties for Dbeibah in Tripoli.
Indications are, however, that Dbeibah has the defense mechanisms necessary to deflect Bashagha’s attempts to fully take control of the capital.
However, concerns are mounting that in this zero-sum game, clashes in Tripoli could become a widespread, nationwide conflict that would potentially lead to another halt of Libyan oil production and exports.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com