The cause of the violence in the coastal area was unclear, but videos circulating on social media showed families with children taking shelter and fleeing as artillery barrages swept across the night sky. Some accused two of the city’s powerful militias of power struggles.
In a statement, the mission said the clashes endangered civilians and called on Libyans “to do everything possible to preserve the country’s fragile stability at this sensitive time.”
Libya has for years been divided between rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by various well-armed militias and foreign governments. The Mediterranean nation has been in a state of upheaval since the 2011 NATO-backed insurgency toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The country’s plan to transition to an elected government fell through after a Tripoli-based interim administration headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah failed to hold elections last year.
Dbeibah has since refused to step down, raising questions about his mandate. In response, the country’s east-based lawmakers have elected a rival prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, a powerful former home secretary who now runs a separate administration outside the city of Sirte.
Dbeibah, in a televised call, urged a powerful commander leading the 444th Brigade serving his government to do whatever is necessary to restore peace in Tripoli.
His rival Bashagha issued a series of tweets calling on armed groups to surrender their weapons. Last month, Bashagha entered Tripoli and attempted to install his government there, but left the country within hours after fighting broke out in which one person was killed.
Meanwhile, a widening blockade on oil production, mainly in the east of the country, has cut off key government revenues at odds with Dbeibah staying in power. On Friday, residents and workers at the Sidra oil terminal, a key export facility, warned in a video announcement that they were shutting down operations due to a lack of basic services in surrounding towns.