A 48-hour state of emergency has been declared in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, after a fresh wave of clashes broke out following a deadly protest against armed groups.
At least one person was killed and dozens wounded in Saturday’s clashes that took place a day after more than 40 people were killed in firing by gunmen.
Saturday’s gun battles broke out to the east of the capital in Tajoura, where rival gunmen clashed at checkpoints set up to stop more gunmen nearby city of Misrata from entering Tripoli, Mohammad Sasi, a local member of Libya’s congress said.
Thousands of protesters gathered in the city centre to mourn those killed in Friday’s attack when militias fired on a crowd urging the dissolution of unlawful armed groups.
Mourners called on their government to resign and armed militias to leave the city.
“I extend my warmest condolences. May God console all the families of the martyrs. It’s a great loss to the country, what has happened is regrettable,” said Ali Zidan, Libyan prime minister, at a news conference on Saturday.
Many stores in the city were closed on Saturday. Tripoli officials have declared a three-day mourning period.
Friday’s protest had been the biggest show of public anger over militias in months.
The Libyan Prime Minister has demanded that all militias “without exception” who fired on civilians leave the Libyan capital.
“The armed manifestations and bullying on the state with the weapons that were seized during the revolution (against Muammar Gaddafi) is unaccepted by the people.”
Zidan, who was briefly kidnapped by militiamen himself last month, said on Friday his embattled government was working on a plan to drive all militias out of Tripoli.
Tripoli on edge
Tripoli is on edge since the deadly clashes that also left more than 500 wounded, LANA reported the Interior Ministry as saying.
The new clashes occurred despite the Prime Minister urging the rebels to stay out of Tripoli, saying that “it would have negative and catastrophic consequences”.
US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the violence and urged restraint in a statement issued by the State Department.
The fighting followed demonstrations on Friday, in which imams, during weekly Muslim prayers, called for protests against armed groups and former fighters who refuse to disarm, which then degenerated into deadly clashes continuing through the night.
After the death of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya’s new leaders have struggled to take control of armed groups fighting over power and influence.