TRIPOLI - At least five people were killed and 50 hurt in Tripoli Friday after a peaceful demonstration calling on unruly militias to leave the increasingly lawless Libyan capital turned violent, an official said.
TRIPOLI – At least five people were killed and 50 hurt in Tripoli Friday after a peaceful demonstration calling on unruly militias to leave the increasingly lawless Libyan capital turned violent, an official said.
Violence erupted when gunmen fired at hundreds of demonstrators carrying white flags from inside villages in the southern Tripoli district of Gharghour where the Misrata militia has its headquarters.
The shooting sparked a violent response in which armed men assaulted the villas and set them on fire.
A spokesman for the health ministry said “the toll has widened to five dead and 50 wounded”, updating an earlier toll.
But the national news agency Lana gave a higher toll of seven killed and 75 wounded.
A witness, who identified himself only as Ibrahim, said “most of the members of the militia barricaded themselves inside one single villa, but the noose is tightening around them.”
He later said the militiamen had evacuated the final villa and fled, adding that some militiamen had been wounded and others arrested.
Other witnesses said heavy gunfire could be heard in Gharghour and that smoke was rising from the district.
The militias are holdovers from the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Moamer Kadhafi and are a powerful force in the increasingly lawless North African country.
Sadat al-Badri, president of Tripoli’s city council, which called for the protest, told AFP the shots fired at demonstrators came from inside the headquarters.
“Tensions are on the rise in Tripoli. We’re going to announce a general strike and launch a civil disobedience campaign until these militias leave,” he said.
In sermons at weekly Muslim prayers earlier in the day, imams backed the call to protest against militias issued by the town hall as well as Libya’s mufti, the highest religious authority.