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Militia clashes rock western Libyan town. At least 1 civilian was killed, officials say

CAIRO — Clashes between government-allied militias rocked a coastal town in western Libya, trapping families inside their homes and forcing the closure of schools Saturday, officials said. At least one civilian was killed.

The latest bout of violence in the chaos-stricken Mediterranean nation broke out early Saturday in the town of Zawiya, 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the capital Tripoli, health officials said.

The Health Ministry’s Ambulance and Emergency Services reported that at least one civilian was killed and at least 22 others were wounded in the clashes which were centered in the southern part of the town. A number of families have been evacuated during a short pause in the fighting, it said.

The Libyan Red Crescent, which helped evacuate the trapped families, appealed to the parties involved to open safe corridors for the remaining families in the area where fighting took place.

The Health Ministry said the clashes subsided by mid-day Saturday thanks to tribal elders in the town. “The situation is now quiet” in southern Zawiya, it said.

The clashing sides are allied with the government of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, which is based in the capital of Tripoli. A spokesman for Dbeibah’s government didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The cause of the fighting was not immediately clear. Local media, however, reported that the clashes erupted when security forces attempted to arrest a man suspected of murder earlier this year.

The clashes also came after security authorities found three young men and a woman dead on a roadside in the town. The circumstances of their killing were not immediately clear.

The fighting was the latest bout of violence to rock western Libya, which is controlled by an array of lawless militias allied with Dbeibah’s government. In August last year, a 24-hour period of fighting between rival militias in Tripoli killed at least 45 people.

The oil-rich North African country has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The country has been divided for years between rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments. The country is now governed by Dbehiba’s government in Tripoli and the administration of Prime Minister Ossama Hammad in eastern Libya.

In the eastern town of Benghazi, lawmaker Ibarhim al-Darai went missing after a robbery of his home earlier this week, the Interior Ministry of Hamad’s government said late Friday. The ministry said it was investigating al-Darsi’s disappearance.

Al-Darsi’s disappearance recalled the case of another lawmaker, Sigam Sergiwa, who was abducted in Benghazi in July 2019.

Sergiwa was taken from her home by gunmen wearing military uniforms on July 17, hours after she criticized a failed offensive in 2019 by east Libya forces of powerful commander Khalifa Hifter to seize Tripoli, according to Amnesty International.

Benghazi is the stronghold of Hifter’s forces, which control eastern and southern Libya, and back Hammad’s government.

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