Libya: Release Of The Leader Of Militia

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The leader of one of the most influential armed groups in western Libya, whose arrest by a rival group on Monday sparked violent fighting that left 55 dead, was released overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, according to a military source.

Colonel “Mahmoud Hamza, commander of Brigade 444, was released overnight from Wednesday to Thursday and returned to his headquarters south of Tripoli,” an official source said from western Libya.

“He was released under a government-sponsored ceasefire agreement” which also provides for the “withdrawal of combatants from the front lines and the deployment of a neutral force to intervene between the adversaries”. The objective is also to assess the damage in order to compensate the affected citizens, according to the same source.

During the night from Wednesday to Thursday, unauthenticated videos circulated on social networks, showing Colonel Hamza in military uniform in his headquarters in the Tekbali barracks, south of Tripoli, surrounded by his men who show their joy.

Fighting involving heavy weapons such as rocket launchers and machine guns broke out after the colonel was arrested without explanation on Monday by the al-Radaa Force (deterrence).

The two armed groups are among the most powerful and influential in Tripoli, home to one of two governments vying for power in oil-rich Libya, which has been embroiled in security chaos since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi ‘s regime in 2011.

In the worst clashes in the capital in a year, 55 people were killed and 146 others injured, mostly combatants.

After the agreement reached late Tuesday between the Tripoli-based government led by Abdelhamid Dbeibah and a “social council” made up of notables and influential figures from Soug el-Joumaa, the stronghold of the al-Radaa Force in the south-east of Tripoli, calm has returned to the capital, to the great relief of its inhabitants who have suffered from repeated clashes.

“The situation (is) stable, police patrols have been deployed” in areas that have experienced fighting, allowing the movement of people, said the military source.

African news/Jide Johnson.