Dozens of armed men raided the hotel in the capital Tripoli as divisions within the surface of the unity government.
Dozens of armed men demonstrated violence in a hotel that was used as the headquarters of the Libyan Presidential Council as the nation’s deep divisions resurfaced.
The armed men were seen late Friday at the entrance to the Corinthia Hotel in the heart of the capital Tripoli, as pictures on social media show. The local press referred to them as “militias”.
Presidential Council spokeswoman Najwa Wheba confirmed that armed men “stormed one of the headquarters where the council meets”.
She told the Libyan LANA news agency that “no one was injured” because the council does not work on Friday, the weekly rest day in Libya.
The show of force comes as the implementation of a call by the UN Security Council for the withdrawal of all foreign troops and mercenaries rekindles divisions within the unity government.
A unified government?
On Monday, foreign minister Najla al-Mangoush angered many in Tripoli and the west by calling on Turkey to withdraw troops stationed during the civil war.
These troops are widely credited in the Libyan capital for defeating a devastating year-long offensive by eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar in June last year. He received support from several countries, particularly Russia and the United Arab Emirates.
Friday’s incident underscores the ongoing risks to the unity government. Both the Presidential Council and the National Unity Government have faced internal criticism as well as challenges to their authority.
In eastern Libya, Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) still rule almost a year after the collapse of their 14-month offensive to conquer the capital. In Tripoli, the armed groups that have pushed Haftar back from the capital with Turkish support are still controlling the streets.
Foreign mercenaries remain firmly anchored on both sides of the heavily fortified front line, although the warring sides have internationally called for them to be withdrawn from the country.
Last week, Foreign Minister al-Mangoush reiterated the call for all foreign fighters to leave the country while standing next to the visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Turkey says its military presence in Libya is different from that of other foreign forces as it was invited by the previous UN-recognized government and will only withdraw when others do.
Before the hotel was stormed on Friday, an operating room for armed groups in Tripoli posted on social media that it had met to discuss “irresponsible statements” by al-Mangoush and later called on the GNU to make Haftar official to refuse.
A ceasefire in October created a unified government – led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and the Presidential Council – as part of a United Nations roadmap for the December elections.
In March the UN Security Council called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops and mercenaries, which is estimated at 20,000.
Libya fell into chaos after longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011. Over the years the conflict has attracted several foreign powers.
In March, a transitional government was finally established to replace the rival governments in East and West and to lead Libya to the elections.