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In Libya Tripoli volatile as push for unity government stalls

Yet the armed groups that control the city are an unsettling presence. Gunmen in balaclavas staff checkpoints on key roads, and armed brigades have been flexing their muscles in late-night parades.

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Tripoli forces hit Islamic State in Libya with air strikes play

Tripoli forces hit Islamic State in Libya with air strikes

(Reuters)

Five years after the uprising that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi, Tripoli is on edge, somewhere between peace and war.

There is a semblance of normal life in the Libyan capital and glimpses of the unexpected - kite surfers zip across choppy waves and a group of amateur cyclists in matching kit pedal along a seafront highway.

Yet the armed groups that control the city are an unsettling presence. Gunmen in balaclavas staff checkpoints on key roads, and armed brigades have been flexing their muscles in late-night parades.

It is here that a unity government nominated abroad under a U.N.-backed plan is hoping to set up shop.

But two months after the deal was signed with limited Libyan support, Reuters interviews with residents and officials, and a string of recent incidents, show that resistance from hardliners in both Tripoli and the east is still getting traction, shrinking the space for the plan to succeed.

The hardliners in Tripoli present themselves as the true guardians of the uprising, protecting Libya against a counter-revolution and foreign meddling. Those in the east claim to be saving the country from Islamist extremism.

Both speak for some of the armed factions that hold real power in Libya, and are scared of losing influence, protection and access to the country's rapidly dwindling financial resources in a political transition.

In Tripoli's Martyrs' Square, where families stroll past dozens of men saying prayers at sunset, some support the unity government, saying they are fed up with violence, cash shortages and rising prices.

"We've had enough," said Fardous Boukhatwa, whose family was displaced by fighting in Benghazi and was visiting Tripoli with three of her children. "There is only one solution - reconciliation and forgiveness."

For nearly two years, Tripoli has been under the control of armed factions that formed an alliance known as Libya Dawn to seize control of the capital.

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