Armed battles in numerous districts of the Libyan capital took place during the night and into the morning hours today among Tripoli’s most powerful factions, in the worst outbreak of armed violence the city has experienced since the start of the year, raising fears of a wider escalation.

Thick smoke was billowing over parts of the city early today and heavy weapons fire could be heard in the streets, a Reuters reporter said. Residents and local media reported fighting in various parts of the capital.

Clashes between “Brigade 444” and “Al Radha” (“deterrence”) Forceboth of which supported the Government of National Unity (GNU) during brief fighting that broke out last year, end months of relative calm in the Libyan capital.

Libya has been experiencing a brief period of peace since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Two rival governments are vying for power: the KEE in Tripoli, under Abdelhamid Dbeiba, and the other in the east, backed by Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA)..

Little progress has been made towards achieving a sustainable political solution and armed factions having gained formal status and funding continue to exercise power.

Last year, pro-government factions in eastern Libya, they tried unsuccessfully to oust Dbeiba, in a day of heavy clashes in Tripoli. Sporadic fighting also took place this year in the town of Zawiya, west of the capital.

Yesterday Monday, the al-Rada Force, which controls the capital’s Mitiga Airport, arrested the commander of Brigade 444, Mahmoud Hamza, who went to the airport to board a plane to travel, a Brigade 444 source said. ».

Flights to and from Mitiga have been diverted to Misrata, a city about 180km east of Tripoli, according to airline and airport sources. Clashes broke out near Mitiga late last night and early today, according to a Reuters reporter.

A resident of the Tariq Souk neighborhood in southern Tripoli said she heard fighting when she went to bed at 1:30 a.m. and more intense when he woke up at 7:30 in the morning.

“We have been hearing heavy exchanges of fire since early morning. My family lives in the district of Khalat Furzan about 7 kilometers away and they too hear clashes,” he said.

Videos on social media, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed residents of the capital blocking roads with burning tires.