On 14 March, clashes escalated in Tripoli between pro-Government of National Accord (GNA) militias, including the powerful Tripoli militias led by Haithem al-Tajouri, Abdurraouf Kara and Abdulghani Kikli aka Ghinewa as well as the Misratan Halbous and Mahjoob militias, and mainly Misratan anti-GNA militias.
On 15 March, pro-GNA militias seized the Rixos Presidential Palaces in central Tripoli, which forces loyal to coup leader Khalifa al-Ghwell had seized in October 2016 from the High State Council. Pro-GNA militias also attacked the Hadba prison on 15 March, but did not manage to take it. Anti-GNA forces were driven back to bases in Salaheddin and Airport road in south Tripoli where they are currently re-organising their forces. Al-Ghwell was injured in the fighting and transported back to Misrata (his hometown) for treatment. A fragile ceasefire has held since the evening of 15 March. On 18 March, al-Ghwell warned he would launch a large counter operation to take back the capital.
On 17 March, protestors in Tripoli’s Martyrs Square criticized Misrata, protested against the presence of militias in Tripoli and some called for Khalifa Haftar to rule. Gunmen opened fire on the protestors, causing them to disperse, although no casualties were reported. Haftar himself threatened the militias in the capital and promised to ‘liberate’ Tripoli.
Pro-GNA militias issued a statement on 17 March denouncing Haftar. On 19 March, local militias reportedly stormed the GNA’s Abu Setta in Tripoli and apparently pressured PM Fayez al-Serraj to issue a televised statement condemning the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) mutilation of dead jihadist fighters in Benghazi and muting its condemnation of the attacks against the anti-militia protestors in Tripoli.
On 18 March, Misrata’s senior politicians in the House of Representatives (HoR) and High State Council (HSC) said they were suspending relations with the Presidential Council (PC) until it corrects the situation. On 18 March, the Misrata Local Council, the main actor responsible for coordinating security measures among the city’s powerful stakeholders, came under attack from protestors. On 19 March, a Misratan radio station was stormed and militias closed the Dafniya checkpoint on the road between Misrata and Tripoli.