By Mahmoud Habboush
Rival militia groups battled for a third day near the Libyan town of Gharyan on Sunday, killing one person and injuring six, despite the efforts of the interim government to broker a ceasefire.
Fighters from neighbouring Libyan towns, who have refused to disarm five months after toppling Muammar Gaddafi, began blasting each other with artillery and rockets on Friday. The death toll has reached three, with 42 wounded, according to a doctor at Gharyan hospital.
A Reuters journalist in Gharyan, 80 km (50 miles) south of Tripoli, said he could hear regular explosions outside the town.
“A National Transitional Council (NTC) delegation is now in Gharyan,” spokesman for Gharyan city council Ismail al-Ayeb said. “A ceasefire was reached about 3 p.m. but it did not hold.”
Interim defence minister Osama al-Juwali rushed to Gharyan on Saturday to try to halt battles between the militias of that town and neighbouring Assabia.
The battle began on Friday when fighters from Assabia stopped two civilians, stripped one naked and stabbed the other in the leg, according to a Gharyan city council member.
Libya’s interim NTC government is struggling to control disparate armed groups, many of which fought hard in the campaign to topple Gaddafi but are now refusing to hand in their weapons, saying they are suspicious of the country’s new rulers.
Many of the clashes are over land and minor disputes, and often each side accuses the other of supporting the dead dictator.