A senior official at Libya’s new Presidency Council denied on Saturday that groups who entered a hotel where the body meets had been armed or used force, playing down an incident that had appeared to illustrate the risks facing the unity government.
Earlier, the Council’s spokeswoman had said armed groups had stormed the Corinthia Hotel on Friday, though she also said nobody from the body had been in the building at the time.
“There was no kidnapping, gunfire, or an attack on me or the hotel,” the head of the Presidency Council’s office, Mohamed al-Mabrouk said in a social media video, adding that he had been in the hotel at the time of the incident.
Mabrouk said the head of the Presidency Council, which functions as Libya’s head of state for now, would meet with the groups involved.
Malta’s ambassador to Libya Charles Saliba told Times of Malta that all Maltese on site are safe. Nobody is believed to have been injured in the incident.
The Presidency Council was chosen through a United Nations-facilitated process that also selected a new Government of National Unity that took office in March, replacing rival administrations in east and west.
Armed groups based in western Libya have voiced anger at the Government of National Unity’s Foreign Minister, Najla el-Mangoush.
Unity Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibeh has worked to win support from Libya’s many rival factions, forming a large cabinet that includes an array of ideological and regional figures.
However, both the Presidency Council and Government of National Unity have faced internal criticism and challenges to their authority.
In eastern Libya, commander Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) still hold sway nearly a year after their 14-month offensive to seize the capital collapsed.
In Tripoli, the armed groups that pushed Haftar back from the capital with Turkish support still control the streets.
Foreign mercenaries remain entrenched on both sides of the heavily fortified front line, despite international calls for the warring sides to pull them from the country.
Last week, Foreign Minister Mangoush repeated the call for all foreign fighters to leave while standing next to visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Turkey says its military presence in Libya is different to that of other foreign forces because it was invited by the previous U.N.-recognised government and it will not withdraw until others do.
Before Friday’s incident, an operations room for the Tripoli armed groups said on social media that it had met to discuss “irresponsible statements” by Mangoush and later called on the GNU to formally reject Haftar.
Photo: A file photo of the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli, Libya. EPA/STR