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Libya unrest ‘worse than under Gaddafi’

Saturday August 2 2014

Libyan fire fighters dousing a huge blaze at an oil tank started by clashes around Tripoli airport on July 28, 2014 in southern Tripoli. PHOTO |  MOHAMED ELBOSIFI | AFP

Libyan fire fighters dousing a huge blaze at an oil tank started by clashes around Tripoli airport on July 28, 2014 in southern Tripoli. PHOTO | MOHAMED ELBOSIFI | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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PIRAEUS, Greece, Saturday

Libya is descending into a civil war spiral that is “much worse” than the unrest that toppled its dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, residents fleeing the country said Saturday.

“We have gone through (war) before, with Gaddafi, but now it’s much worse,” Paraskevi Athineou, a Greek woman living in Libya, told AFP.

“Chaos reigns. There is no government, we have no food, no fuel, no water, no electricity for hours on end,” she said.

Athineou was part of a group of 186 people evacuated from Tripoli by a Greek navy frigate which reached the port of Piraeus early on Saturday.

In addition to 77 Greek nationals, there were 78 Chinese, 10 Britons, 12 Cypriots, seven Belgians, one Albanian and a Russian.

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Among them were several diplomats, including the Chinese ambassador to Libya.

Libya has suffered chronic insecurity since Gaddafi’s overthrow in 2011, with the new government unable to check militias that helped to remove him and facing a growing threat from Islamist groups.

“So many people died to make the country better. But now we started killing each other in a civil war,” said Osama Monsour, a 35-year-old employed at a non-governmental organisation in Tripoli.

Fighting between rival militias in Tripoli has forced the closure of the city’s international airport, while Islamist groups are also battling army special forces in the eastern city of Benghazi.

“War is in the city... and we civilians are under fire from both sides,” Athineou said.

“It is worse than 2011,” said Ali Gariani, a Libyan married to a Greek woman.

“That time we were being bombed by NATO. But now we are being bombed by the Libyans themselves, and that is really shameful,” he said.

Meanwhile, Libya’s new nationalist-dominated parliament held its first meeting Saturday, boycotted by Islamists, in a sign of deep divisions still plaguing a violence-racked country from which thousands are fleeing.

The parliament, elected June 25, is to take over from the interim General National Congress chosen in the wake of the 2011 NATO-backed revolution that ousted longtime dictator Gaddafi.