Dominique Soguel, AFP
Last updated: 4 August, 2012

Gunfight and car blast rock central Tripoli

A gunbattle between youths allegedly competing for space in a market and a car explosion rocked the centre of the Libyan capital on Saturday, wounding one person, residents and security sources said.

“There was a fight between youths over market space,” Mohammed, a young resident of Al-Rashid neighbourhood near Martyr’s Square, told AFP.

“They were shooting at each other,” he said, adding that explosives of the kind used in fishing were also thrown in the clash that happened at around dawn.

An explosion in a car — apparently caused by similar explosives — rocked the same area.

“The car, a Honda Civic, blew up to pieces,” said a guard stationed at a military police base just metres (yards) from the site of the blast.

Senior officers at the same branch declined to comment.

The official LANA news agency later cited a security official as saying that “preliminary investigations ruled out it was a car bomb.”

And a foreign security expert who evaluated the scene confirmed to AFP that the explosion appeared to have been caused by TNT used in fishing, basing that assessment on the nature of the scorch marks and absence of a crater.

He too said the blast did not appear to have been caused by a car bomb.

Images posted on social media showed the charred remains of a red vehicle.

Dark scorch marks scored the sides of buildings on the corner where most of the fighting and the blast took place, and the windows of several clothes shops in the area were pockmarked by bullet holes.

A couple of vehicles parked on the commercial street also had bullet holes in them.

Witnesses reported that one person had been wounded.

Medical officials at Al-Huruq hospital said they admitted a 54-year-old Tunisian who was wounded by shrapnel from an explosion. He was under anaesthesia following an operation, an AFP photographer said.

Al-Rashid is known as one of the rougher areas in Tripoli and is also a hub for unlicensed market stalls selling T-shirts, jeans and suitcases.

While it was business as usual on Saturday, the underlying mood was tense and many residents declined to comment on the cause of the conflict or those involved. “Everyone is tense here because there is no security,” said one shopkeeper.

Most of the urban violence to have hit Libya in the wake of last year’s revolt which ousted Moamer Kadhafi has taken place in the eastern city of Benghazi.