The sound of heavy weapons and automatic gunfire crashed across Tripoli, Libya’s capital on Tuesday morning, leading to the cancellation of schools and sparse rush hour traffic.
The clash between backers of two rival administrations for several hours erupted as the parliament-appointed Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha tried to take control of government from a rival administration that has refused to cede power.
Armed members of the eastern faction that arrived overnight left the city after several hours of clashes citing the “security and safety of citizens”, as the United Nations and European Union launched urgent appeals for calm.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the fighting that erupted before dawn.
Libya has been ruled by Abdulhamid Dbeibah who was appointed prime minister after UN-brokered negotiations last year.
But he has been challenged by Fathi Bashagha, who was named as rival premier in February by the parliament in the country’s eastern city of Tobruk and is backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar.
A plan to hold an election in December collapsed amid arguments among major factions and prominent candidates over the rules and the parliament, which had sided with the east during the war, moved to appoint a new administration.
The unity government’s Prime Minister Dbeibah rejected the parliament’s moves saying his administration was still valid and he would only hand over power after an election.
Bashagha said his western rival forfeited his claim to office when he failed to hold elections as scheduled.