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Militias clash in Tripoli after commander's death

By Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
updated 8:50 AM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: At least two people killed, security officials say
  • Nuri Fairwan, a commander of a Misrata militia, died of injuries he suffered Tuesday
  • Fairwan was hurt when a checkpoint dispute escalated to violence
  • The fighting is some of the most intense in Tripoli since the fall of Gadhafi in 2011

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Gun battles between rival militias raged in several parts of the Libyan capital on Thursday night with no immediate reports of casualties.

The sound of anti-aircraft gunfire and blasts echoed across Tripoli in one of the most intense incidents of militia infighting in the city since the fall of the Moammar Gadhafi regime two years ago.

At least two people were killed and at least 29 were injured Thursday night, according to the state news agency LANA, citing security officials in the Libyan capital.

The clashes, between a militia from the city of Misrata and Tripoli militiamen, broke out after a Misrata militia commander died as a result of injuries he suffered on Tuesday. Commander Nuri Fairwan was injured Tuesday in fighting between the two militias that began with a dispute at a Tripoli checkpoint and escalated.

Witnesses in parts of the capital affected by the clashes said residential buildings and a five-star hotel were hit by the gunfire.

Tripoli's Radisson Blu Al Mahary Hotel, which houses Western diplomats and is frequented by journalists and business guests, was hit by several rounds of anti-aircraft gunfire, which caused some damage including shattered glass windows.

Hotel staff and guests were led to the basement during the heavy fighting in the vicinity.

Libya's big power play yet to come

More than two years after the end of Libya's civil war, the country remains awash in weapons and militias with competing interests.

Many Libyans are concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the country and the increasing power of militias who continue to operate freely.

The weakness of Libya's central government and its inability to build an army and police force was underscored last month with the kidnapping of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan by a militia in Tripoli, which seized him for a few hours before another militia released him.

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