Libya’s Dbeibah says to defend Tripoli amid fighting

STORY: Charred cars and buildings pockmarked by bullets scarred Libya’s capital on Sunday as shops opened and people cleared away smashed glass and other debris, a day after the worst fighting there in two years killed 32 people and injured 159, according to the country’s Health Ministry.

Battles raged across the city Saturday as forces aligned with the parliament-backed administration of Fathi Bashagha failed to take control of the capital and oust the Tripoli-based government of Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah.

The clashes erupted and ended suddenly. But the fighting has raised fears of a wider conflict over the political standoff.

In a video post on his Facebook page, Dbeibah told fighters the only way to move forward was to go to elections.

"When they saw our city Tripoli in peace, they were jealous. Those who think they can stage a coup, we tell them the coup era has now passed and those who want elections, we are ready for elections, we’re not moving forward unless we go to elections and if they want otherwise, we have men."

Bashagha's attempt on Saturday to take over in Tripoli was his second such attempt since May.

His prospects of seizing the city appear badly dented for now, but there is no sign of a broader political or diplomatic compromise to end the struggle for power in the country.

Airline companies said early on Sunday that flights were operating normally at Tripoli's Mitiga airport, a sign that the security situation had eased for now.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate end to the violence and for genuine dialogue to get around Libya's political impasse.

Bashagha's failure to oust Dbeibah showed that despite a period of realignment among armed factions in and around the capital, the Tripoli government can still count on a military coalition able to fight off its enemies.

Libya has had little peace since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted longtime autocrat Muammar Gaddafi, splitting the nation in 2014 between rival eastern and western factions and dragging in regional powers.