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LIBYA

Jihadis throw pool party at US embassy compound in Libya

The Islamist faction Libyan Dawn claims to have 'secured' the US diplomatic compound

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 September, 2014, 10:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 September, 2014, 12:52am

It was, by all appearances, a jihadist pool party - staged at an abandoned American diplomatic compound in the Libyan capital.

In video footage posted online on Sunday, a group of laughing, whooping men identified as members of an Islamist-linked group - some in black paramilitary-appearing outfits, some in summertime civilian wear - clowned, posed for the camera and did swan dives off a second-floor balcony into a swimming pool said to be in an annex of the US embassy in Tripoli, which was evacuated last month amid heavy fighting.

The images were emblematic of Libya in free fall, with the oil-rich North African nation spiralling into all-out civil war more than three years after the toppling of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The US ambassador to Libya, Deborah Jones, who has been overseeing American diplomatic activity from Malta, said on Twitter that the footage appeared to have been shot in a residential compound at the embassy.

A commander for an Islamist faction called Libyan Dawn said on Sunday that the militia had "secured" the residential annex. It is not clear when the video was shot.

The American diplomatic staff was spirited out of Tripoli after fighting around the international airport came too close to the embassy grounds.

The US State Department said at the time that the closing of the US embassy was a suspension of an American diplomatic presence rather than an end. Most other diplomatic installations in Tripoli have also been closed.

Libyan armed groups, once allied in the fight against Gaddafi, turned on one another after toppling and killing him in 2011. In June, the Islamists suffered harsh setbacks in parliamentary elections, and the conflict between them and other nationalist and tribal militias escalated in recent months into full-scale armed conflict.

The violent unrest has left Tripoli under control of Libyan Dawn, while the elected government has set up operations in the eastern city of Tobruk.

The toothless outgoing government admitted yesterday from its safe refuge in the east that it has in effect lost control of Tripoli to armed militias.

The interim government led by prime minister Abdullah al-Thani, which resigned last week, said armed groups, mostly Islamist militias, were in control of ministries and blocking access to government workers.

"Ministry and state offices in Tripoli have been occupied by armed militias who are preventing government workers from entering and are threatening their superiors," the government said.

Parliament voted yesterday to task Thani with forming a new government, the official news agency Lana reported.

He was named to form an 18-member team, down from the outgoing administration's number of around 30, it said, adding that seven of the new ministers would put together a crisis cabinet.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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