UN: Armed group closed water supply valves in Libya capital

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — An armed group stormed the main water distribution station in Libya's capital and closed valves supplying Tripoli and cities in the northwest, potentially affecting some two million people, the United Nations said Monday.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said U.N. humanitarian officials are deeply concerned over the reported water cutoff following Sunday's attack.

Some districts in Tripoli are already experiencing low water pressure, "and it is expected that the full impact will be felt in the coming two days unless the valves are reopened," he said.

Dujarric said Tripoli's water supply had been affected before Sunday's incident because maintenance workers at the main distribution station were evacuated for security reasons.

The self-styled Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive from the east on April 4 seeking to take Tripoli. Hifter's forces are battling militias loosely allied with a weak, U.N.-recognized government in the capital.

Civil war in Libya in 2011 toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and the chaos that followed resulted in a divided country, with the U.N.-aligned administration in Tripoli overseeing the country's west and a government in the east aligned with Hifter. Each is backed by an array of militias and armed groups fighting over resources and territory.

Dujarric said clashes in and around Tripoli continue "to surge," increasing the number of civilians who have fled their homes to more than 78,000.

The United Nations has verified some 126 civilian casualties to date, including 29 fatalities, he said, but "they should be considered a minimum."

The battle for the Libyan capital has threatened to ignite a civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising against Gadhafi.

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Edith M. Lederer


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