Fresh clashes erupt between rival Libya militias
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Fresh clashes broke out in Libya’s capital Tripoli between rival militias on Saturday, a day after gunmen from Misrata opened fire on protesters demanding the disbandment of unlawful armed groups. The death toll from Friday's violence has hit 43.
Fresh clashes erupted on Saturday to the east of Libya’s capital as gunmen tried to stop vehicles loaded with fighters from Misrata entering Tripoli, where their base is under attack from soldiers and government-affiliated militias.
The gun battles between rival militias comes a day after Misrata gunmen opened fire on protesters demanding the disbandment of unlawful armed groups, killing 43 people.
The bloodbath prompted Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to call on rival militias to stay out of Tripoli on Saturday.
Libya’s government and weak armed forces are struggling to control militias, Islamist militants and other former fighters who refuse to surrender their arms two years after helping to oust Gaddafi in a NATO-backed revolt.
Friday’s violence broke out when militiamen from the coastal city of Misrata opened fire on protesters who had marched on their brigade quarters in Tripoli to demand they leave.
Clashes spread to other parts of Tripoli and at least 43 people were killed, health officials said.
"I urge that no forces at all to enter Tripoli," Zeidan said in a public speech. "It would have negative and catastrophic consequences."
Misrata militiamen were still holed up in their base near Tripoli airport on Saturday in a standoff with government forces and armed local residents who had taken to the streets to try to force the group out of the city.
Tripoli has sought to bring the militias under control by putting them on the government payroll and assigning them to protect government offices. But gunmen often remain loyal to their own commanders and battle for control of local areas.
Strikes and armed protests in the east and the west of Libya by militia and tribal gunmen demanding payments or more autonomy rights have already shut much of the OPEC member’s oil output for months.
A two-week protest at Mellitah port by members of the Berber minority ended on Saturday, raising hopes Libya can resume gas exports from the terminal, operated by Italy’s ENI and the National Oil Corp, on Sunday.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
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