TRIPOLI - Fighting erupted in the Libyan capital on Wednesday when gunmen from the western city of Zintan tried to free five comrades seized by former rebels, a security source said.
The clashes with small arms and heavy weapons broke out in the Abu Slim area near central Tripoli, a journalist and witnesses said.
Gunfire from heavy weapons could be heard in several areas of the centre, while plumes of smoke could be seen rising into the sky above Abu Slim, a journalist at the scene said.
"It's a war here," Meftah, a resident of the area, said.
Rebels from Zintan first entered Tripoli in August 2011, when they helped to drive forces loyal to former dictator Moamer Gathafi out of the capital.
Since then, some of these groups have stayed in the capital and have occupied former military bases and other state institutions.
On Tuesday, a group of gunmen from Zintan attacked the headquarters of the petrol installations guard, for reasons that are still unclear, before other groups of ex-rebels intervened with force to stop them.
Members of the country's highest political authority, the General National Congress, said in a statement on Wednesday that clashes the night before in the Tripoli suburb of Salaheddin had killed five people.
The authorities, who are struggling to form a professional army and police, regularly use former rebels to secure the borders or to intervene in tribal conflicts.
The government has failed to disarm and disband the former rebel groups who implement the law in parts of the country.