Tripoli: Air raids were carried out Saturday night on the Libyan capital Tripoli, according to AFP journalists and residents who heard loud explosions.

The exact locations of the strikes were not known, but the roar of airplanes over the city was accompanied by heavy explosions between 11.00 pm and midnight.

“We are hearing sustained, uninterrupted fire” from machine guns and anti-aircraft guns “and occasional air strikes, but we do not know where exactly,” a resident of west Tripoli told AFP.

“On Facebook, users are saying that you must leave your house if you live near a barracks or a place where armed groups have taken position,” she added. “But we are afraid to go out into the street so late at night.”

Forces loyal to the UN-recognised government of national unity and the Libyan National Army under commander Khalifa Haftar, have been engaged in battle for three weeks.

LNA forces launched an offensive on April 4 to seize the capital.

After forces loyal to the Tripoli-based government of national unity launched a counter-attack last weekend, the International Committee for the Red Cross warned that residential areas of Tripoli were being turned into battlefields.

At least 278 people have been killed and more than 1,300 wounded in the clashes, according to the World Health Organisation.

More than 35,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

Most of the fighting happens on the ground, but there are occasional air raids.

Iranian ship searched

Meanwhile, an Iranian registered cargo ship was boarded and searched at Misrata port in western Libya, the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord said Saturday.

The “Iranian flagged... Shahr E. Kord” is docked at the country’s main commercial port, the internationally recognised-GNA’s interior ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page.

The ship “is on a sanctions list of the US”, the statement added.

According to the US Treasury Department Office for Foreign Assets Control, the Shahr E. Kord was placed on a sanctions blacklist on November 5, 2018.

Washington has imposed a series of sanctions against Tehran since unilaterally withdrawing from an international nuclear accord in May 2018.

The ship, containing 144 containers, was brought to Misrata port in order to “verify the cargo to ensure it conforms with documents”, the GNA’s interior ministry said.

The ship left the port of Burgas in Bulgaria on April 20, bound for Misrata, according to the website

Ahmad Al Mesmari, a spokesman for the Libyan National Army (LNA) on April 23 spoke about the presence of an Iranian ship off Misrata.

Al Mesmari has suggested that the ship was illegally carrying a cargo of arms and ammunition to the coastal city, which is held by militia opposed to the LNA.

LNA sends warship to Ras Lanuf

Meanwhile, the LNA sent a war ship to the eastern oil port of Ras Lanuf.

Al Mesmari told reporters his forces had sent the Al Karama patrol vessel to Ras Lanuf in Libya’s key Oil Crescent region as part of a “training mission” to visit the operations room and to secure oil facilities.

The LNA controls Ras Lanuf and other eastern oil ports and the county’s oilfields but had technically left state firm NOC to run them.

NOC is based in Tripoli and has sought to stay out of the conflict between the two governments, handling the oil and gas exports, Libya’s lifeline.

The export proceeds are given by NOC to the Tripoli central bank which mainly works with the Tripoli government but also pays some public servants in LNA-controlled eastern Libya.

NOC in a statement on Saturday condemned the use of its facilities for military purposes without mentioning the LNA or naming who was behind the acts.