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Bashaga to run rival administration from Libya's Sirte after Tripoli rout

  • 17 May 2022

Eastern parliament-appointed premier Fathi Bashaga decides to base his administration in Sirte city after an abortive bid to take the capital Tripoli by force and unseat the UN-backed Dbeibah government there.

Bashagha is backed by Khalifa Haftar, the eastern-based warlord who led a failed bid to seize Tripoli in 2019-20, and who maintains control of several key oil installations. ( AA )

Libya's eastern parliament-appointed premier Fathi Bashagha will base his administration in northern Sirte city from Wednesday, he has said in a speech after the UN-backed government repulsed his attempt to forcibly enter the capital Tripoli.

Libya has had two rival administrations since March when the east-based parliament appointed Bashagha as prime minister despite the incumbent and UN-supported Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah saying the move was illegitimate and refusing to step aside.

Bashagha's attempt on Tuesday to seat his government in Tripoli triggered fierce clashes between fighters on both sides, forcing Bashagha to leave the city.

The fresh fighting underscored the fragility of the situation in the war-wracked North African country while the two leaders blamed each other for the escalation.

The sound of heavy weapons and automatic gunfire crashed across the capital in the morning, as schools were cancelled and the normally heavy rush hour traffic was sparse.

However, in central areas, away from the clashes on the northeast side of Tripoli, there was little evidence of military activity.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the fighting.

Dbeibah has said repeatedly that he will only cede power to an elected government.

The fighting raised fears of a return to the chaos that has reigned since a NATO-backed popular revolt in 2011 toppled Muammar Gaddafi and an all-out conflict that gripped the capital in 2019-20.

READ MORE: Libya's rival PM Bashagha leaves Tripoli after clashes

Political divide

Dbeibah's government was tasked with leading Libya to elections scheduled for last December, but these were indefinitely postponed.

In February, the parliament in Tobruk city designated former interior minister Bashagha as prime minister. 

In March, pro-Bashagha militias had already deployed on the edges of the capital, raising fears of a confrontation that would end a fragile ceasefire in place since October 2020.

Bashagha is backed by Khalifa Haftar, the eastern-based warlord who led a failed bid to seize Tripoli in 2019-20, and who maintains control of several key oil installations.

The rise of Bashagha's government gives the country two rival administrations, as was the case between 2014 and a 2020 ceasefire.

READ MORE: Five recent events shaping the Libyan conflict

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