By Aimen Eljali, Tom Westcott and Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Tripoli, 7 November 2013:
Heavy clashes broke out this evening in east Tripoli following unconfirmed reports that . . .[restrict]Nuri Friwan, the commander of the Misrata Nosoor Battalion injured in an incident at a Tripoli checkpoint on Tuesday, had died earlier today.
The clashes, involving heavy machine guns and RPGs, started around 9.45 pm at the checkpoint by the planetarium near Shara Al-Shatt, where Friwan was wounded, but are said to have quickly spread to Suq Al-Juma and Nufleen. There are also reports of fighting in Ben Ashour. Ambulances have been seen rushing to the Shara Al-Shatt area. By 11 pm, gunfire was also heard in the centre of town, in Algeria Square and streets nearby. “There are snipers firing. It’s like the revolution all over again,” a downtown resident told the Libya Herald by phone.
Heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft guns, could be clearly identified in the Zawiyat Dahmani district of the capital, a neighbourhood resident told this paper. Another said he thought the fighting included from anything between 50 to 200 men but it was impossible to determine.
A local resident in the neighbouring Busetta area said that anti-aircraft guns appeared to be being fired directly at buildings.
There have been reports on social media networks of people abandoning their cars in the middle to try and get to a place of safety.
The head of Tripoli SSC, Hashem Bishr, however, denied any spread in the fighting. He told the Libya Herald this evening that it was taking place only in the Shara Al-Shatt area. He said that it was between forces from Misrata and other groups, which he did not name. However, one of the groups involved in the fighting is believed to be from Suq Al-Juma. Another is reported to be a Libya Shield battalion.
There are also unconfirmed reports that orders have been given to Tajoura units to close the roads into eastern Tripoli to anyone without authorisation and to secure Mitiga airbase.
Friwan was shot very early on Tuesday morning after his vehicle was stopped by checkpoint guards under the control of Tripoli’s Joint Security Operations Room. Shortly afterwards, members of his battalion attacked the guards, injuring three of them.
At the time it was said that Friwan had been shot in the leg although it appears to have been sufficiently serious to have him air ambulanced out of the county.
Today it was also reported that Operations Room had demanded that the members of the Nosoor Battalion involved in attacking and wounding the checkpoint guards be arrested. According the Libya news agency LANA, the Operations room said that those involved had carried out “an assault on the sovereignty of the state”. [/restrict]