Clashes erupt in Tripoli after Rada seizes head of 444 Brigade

Aug 14, 2023 | Libyan actors

On 14 August, Mahmoud Hamza, the commander of the 444 Brigade, was arrested by the Special Deterrence Force (Rada) at Mitiga Airport while he was on his way to Misrata for a Graduation Ceremony. He was reportedly travelling together with Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dabaiba. Following the arrest, the 444 and Rada mobilised their troops, vehicles and heavy weaponry in southern Tripoli. The 444 engaged with members of the Judicial Police, which is allied with Rada, in Ain Zara. Fighting also took place in al-Hadbha and Khalet al-Furjan, including the use of heavy weapons. Abdussalam Zubi’s 111th Brigade mobilised in support of the 444.

Grand Mufti al-Sadiq al-Ghariyani called on his followers to support Mahmoud Hamza and urged them to ‘liberate’ Mitiga from Rada once and for all. Zintani commander Osama Juwaili called for an immediate end to hostilities. He said the PC must take the necessary steps to do so. Initial attempts by PM Dabaiba to negotiate with Rada leader Abdurraouf Kara for Hamza’s release failed, with fighting and violence intensifying on 15 August in and around Ain Zara, with several people killed and injured and properties and residences damaged and destroyed. In response to the violence, all flights to and from Mitiga were suspended and passenger planes were transferred from Mitiga to Misrata for security reasons. Tripoli University cancelled all studies.

The House of Representatives (HoR) condemned the hostilities and called for all parties to negotiate a de-escalation, saying it holds the Government of National Unity (GNU), the PC and armed groups in the capital responsible for the chaos. The High State Council (HSC) also condemned the fighting and called for a ceasefire and peaceful resolution of the violence. PC Deputy Abdullah al-Lafi said the PC is coordinating with chiefs of staff to try and end the fighting. Late on 15 August, there were reports that Hamza had been released to a ‘neutral’ force as a first step towards a ceasefire. As of the morning of 16 August, fighting had ceased.