TRIPOLI, Libya — Nearly 2,000 demonstrators gathered in the Libyan capital on Monday in support of a Swiss-based Libyan businessman who had called for a rally to reject the leadership of both main sides in the divided country.
Basit Igtet has sought political entree in the oil-rich country before and recently gathered thousands of Facebook followers and proposed himself as a potential leader for the country, split between rival militia-backed factions in the east and west.
"No Hifter, no Serraj, Igtet is here," demonstrators chanted, referring to Fayez Serraj, the prime minister-designate of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, and Gen. Khalifa Hifter, the commander of Libya's self-styled national army, based in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Both of those sides opposed the rally, and hundreds of counter-demonstrators attended and shouted anti-Igtet slogans.
Igtet himself was present at one point, but did not speak. As night fell, the two sides clashed with fistfights before security forces intervened and separated them with dozens of vehicles. Most headed home afterward.
Libya sank into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed leaders Moammar Gadhafi. The main leaders from both sides recently agreed to cooperate to ease tensions, and the U.N has proposed a new "Action Plan" to unite the country.