Intense clashes have been ongoing in the Libyan capital of Tripoli following the detention of the chief commander of the 444th Brigade Mahmoud Hamza by the Special Deterrence Force (SDF).

Hamza was at Mitiga Airport to take a plane to Misrata when a group of SDF gunmen seized him before boarding his plane on Monday.

The SDF refused to free him and the mediation efforts by top government and army officials, have failed. The SDF and the 444th Brigade engaged in heavy exchange of fire in Tarik Shouk (Shouk Road) near Tripoli Medical Center, Khallah area, and Ain Zara, the southern parts of the capital where both have significant presence.

There are reports of casualties from both sides as fighting extending on the ground. The Ambulance and Emergency Service declared a state of high alert and started evacuating the citizens trapped in the fighting zones.

Around 20 citizens have been wounded according to initial medical reports.

Major airlines moved their planes from Mitiga Airport to Misrata Airport as a precautionary measure and suspended flights to Mitiga Airport which is main stronghold of the SDF. 

Tripoli University, which is very close to the fighting zone, suspended classes due to the deteriorating security situation and the Ministry of Education cancelled the second-term exams.

Mahmoud Hamza, a colonel in the Libyan army, was the commander of the Special Deterrence Force’s 20-20 Squad. In 2020, he left the SDF and took his squad with all vehicles and ammunition and joined the army where he renamed the 20-20 squad to the 444th Brigade.