Libya fighting causes turmoil as government claims control

The attack on parliament forced politicians to flee after heavily armed attackers tried to storm the building

The Libyan government has insisted that it remains in control of the country despite a series of heavy attacks and clashes over the weekend.

The parliament building in the capital Tripoli was overrun by a militia group, and two people were killed.

Later a militia spokesman demanded that the assembly hand over power to a body drawing up a new constitution.

Libya's leaders have struggled to bring stability to the country since Muammar Gaddafi was removed from power in 2011.

The planned new constitution remains unwritten and the country has had three prime ministers since March.

Armed men aim their weapons from a vehicle as smoke rises in the background near the General National Congress in Tripoli 18 May Smoke was seen rising from the parliament building in Tripoli

Since the conclusion of Col Gaddafi's one-man rule, militias of ex-rebels have become de-facto powerbrokers in the vacuum of Libya's political chaos, correspondents say.

They have carved out fiefdoms and are exercising their military muscle to make demands on the state.

In a live televised statement, Justice Minister Asalah al-Marghani condemned the attacks, calling for an end to the violence and the need for a national dialogue.

He said that the government is still working.

Early on Monday there were reports of an attack on a military air base in Benghazi, which on Friday saw heavy fighting between the militias and Islamists.

Loyalists of retired Colonel Khalifa Haftar say his forces and militia allies planned Sunday's chaotic assault on the parliament to rid Libya of Islamist hardliners.

Correspondents say it is not clear how much backing Col Haftar's men have within Libya's nascent regular armed forces and the country's powerful brigades of former rebels.

Nor is it clear whether parliament is fully under government control after Sunday's attack.

Meanwhile National Forces Alliance party member Tawfik Breik described his country "as a volcano waiting to explode".

"There's no real parliament in here, in Libya. There's no real government," he said. "There's militias everywhere."

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