Battle between Tripoli, Misrata militias kills 4

Tue Jan 3, 2012 8:22pm GMT

By Mahmoud Habboush

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Four fighters were killed in a gun battle between Libyan militias in one of Tripoli's busiest streets on Tuesday, a fresh sign that its new government is struggling to control the increasingly fractious groups that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi.

Former rebels from Tripoli controlling a security compound in the capital fought off dozens of fighters from Misrata who were trying to seize a group of prisoners in a gun battle that lasted for more than an hour, medics and former rebels said.

Real power still resides with the militias, more than two months after they captured and killed Gaddafi. Since then, they have carved up the capital and country into competing fiefdoms, each holding out for the share of power they say they are owed.

After the fighting, armed men combed central Tripoli looking for Misratan fighters. A Reuters witness saw them capture one man, swarm around and kick and punch him as he was marched into the compound.

A pickup truck daubed with the words 'The Defence Brigade, Misrata Revolutionaries' lay across the highway, riddled with bullets and with blood stains on the back seat. One fighter said 11 militiamen from Misrata had been captured.

"Some of them screamed 'We're from Misrata, you dogs!' while they were firing," said another Tripoli fighter. "They wanted to take them (the prisoners) by force, they used 106mm (rocket) launchers and 14mm machine guns."


The battle on Tripoli's Zawiya road was the first between militias since December 11, when soldiers from Libya's new national army fought militiamen for control of the capital's international airport.   Continued...

The body of Mohammed Fitouri, one of the fighters who was killed in clashes between two Libyan militias, lay on a bed in Tripoli's Central Hospital January 3, 2012.  REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny
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