Tripoli: Rival armed groups exchanged gunfire in the Libyan capital Saturday, killing at least 12 people and raising fears of all-out conflict in the country.
The fighting follows months of rising tensions between two administrations vying for control of the North African country and its vast oil resources, the latest configuration in a complex power struggle since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gadhafi.
Small arms fire and explosions rocked several districts of Tripoli overnight and into Saturday, when smoke could be seen rising from damaged buildings.
Early on Saturday evening, the health ministry in Tripoli gave a preliminary toll of 12 dead and 87 wounded from the fighting.
Six hospitals were hit and ambulances were unable to reach areas affected by the clashes, the ministry had said earlier, condemning "war crimes".
The two rival administrations exchanged blame as videos posted online showed burned-out cars and buildings ridden with bullet holes, as well as a mosque and a health clinic on fire.
The UN’s Libya mission called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities”, citing “ongoing armed clashes including indiscriminate medium and heavy shelling in civilian-populated neighbourhoods” that it said had damaged hospitals.
The US embassy in Libya said it was “very concerned” about the clashes.
Oussama Ali, a spokesman for Tripoli’s ambulance service, told Al Ahrar television that an unknown number of civilians had been wounded but that his service was “having difficulties moving around”.
Local media reported fatalities but no official toll has been released.
News agency Lana said actor Mustafa Baraka had been killed in one of the neighbourhoods hit by fighting, sparking anger and mourning on social media.
The Government of National Unity (GNU) of Abdulhamid Dbeibah said fighting had broken out after negotiations to avoid bloodshed in the western city collapsed.