Militia attack sparks Libya clashes

Militia attack sparks Libya clashes

Clashes have erupted in Libya's capital as soldiers and government-affiliated militias attempt to regain control of a base occupied by armed gunmen after a deadly militia attack on protesters the day before.

A fighter on the government side said one of his colleagues was shot dead and three others were wounded in the fighting in eastern Tripoli.

Tripoli is on edge after a militia opened fire on Friday on protesters demanding the disbanding of unlawful armed groups.

That attack killed at least 40 people and wounded 400, the country's justice minister said.

Security was tight around the city ahead of funerals expected later.

Eight pro-government fighters were wounded in the fighting in the Tajoura neighbourhood of eastern Tripoli, the official LANA news agency reported.

Soldiers and government-affiliated militiamen were trying to regain control of a base attacked on Friday evening by militiamen coming from the nearby city of Misrata.

A military commander in the base, Colonel Musbah al-Harna, told LANA that the militia from the eastern city of Misrata attacked the base at around dawn on Saturday.

Mr Al-Harna said the militiamen later left the base, taking with them much of the weapons and ammunition there. He said the militiamen are now at the edge of the city.

Tripoli is on edge after other Misrata militiamen in Tripoli opened fire yesterday on protesters demanding the disbanding of unlawful armed groups, killing 40 people and wounding 400, justice minister Salah al-Marghani said.

Many shops in the city were closed on Saturday. Tripoli officials have declared a three-day mourning period.

Also on Saturday, prime minister Ali Zidan warned against attempts by militiamen from outside Tripoli to enter the capital, saying it could lead to a "bloodbath", LANA reported.

Since the 2011 fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, hundreds of militias - many of them on government payroll - have run out of control in Libya, carving out zones of power, defying state authority and launching violent attacks. Libya's government has failed in forcing them to join the weak police and armed forces it is struggling to set up, amid growing public disgruntlement over the country's security vacuum.

The behaviour of Misrata militiamen in particular has sparked public outrage.

On Saturday, security was tight around Tripoli as funeral processions for those killed on Friday were expected. Government-affiliated militias and armed residents set up checkpoints throughout Tripoli and at its gates, blocking gunmen from entering the city and to protect their neighbourhoods from more violence.

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