Libya: Shell Kills Five Sunbathers on Tripoli Beach as Militia Airport Feud Rages

Crowds enjoy a beach in Tripoli, Libya, June 25, 2014. Five people were killed and 32 injured after a shell fired by militia in the Libyan capital fell on unsuspecting sunbathers on a beach not far from the city’s airport. REUTERS/Steve Crisp

Five people have been killed and 32 injured after a shell fired by militia in the Libyan capital of Tripoli fell on unsuspecting sunbathers on a beach not far from the city's airport.

The Ministry of Health from Tripoli's U.N.-backed government confirmed in a statement the death toll included two adult women, two girls and young boy. All five were visiting the beach Tuesday in eastern Tripoli, where it is common for residents to cool themselves on hot summer evenings.

Deputy Interior Minister Abdulsalam Ashour told Libya's local Al-Ahrar television channel the casualties were the result of clashes between security forces at Tripoli's Mitiga International Airport and "outlaws."

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However, one Tripoli resident, familiar with security arrangements at Mitiga, tells Newsweek the errant shell was fired by a member of the al-Boni militia, part of security operations at the airport, and nominally under the control of Tripoli's government.

For years Libya's western capital, Tripoli, has been plagued by skirmishes and clashes between the patchwork of militias formally incorporated into the security apparatus but in reality under the control of their own commanders.

Increasing tensions between local Tripoli fighters and forces from the central Libyan city of Misrata, one of the most powerful military powers to emerge from the country's 2011 uprising against Muammar el-Qaddafi, have boiled over because of disagreements over the U.N.-backed government.

Reuters reported that in late May, 22 fighters were killed during a major offensive by Islamist-leaning forces to dislodge the U.N.-backed government from the capital.

However, rivalries between militia in Tripoli also have been fueled by turf wars over lucrative smuggling networks. The Tripoli resident, whose name is being withheld for fear of reprisal, explained Mitiga was a hub for the black-market trade in currency and human trafficking.

Since the toppling of Libya's 40-year leader during a NATO-backed intervention, the northern African nation has lurched from crisis to crisis. The country is now effectively divided between east and west with an unstable government in Tripoli and a rival government in Tobruk, aligned with military commander Khalifa Haftar.