More Violence in Libya: Dozens Killed, Incontrollable Militias

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Deadly clashes erupted in the outskirts of Tripoli on Saturday resulting in dozens of deaths, estimated at almost 40. These events are similar to those that occurred last summer in Benghazi, when 30 people died after confronting an unruly armed militia. In Tripoli this weekend, local populations battled a militia from Misrata (some 200 km east of Tripoli), who came to the capital to avenge the death of some of their members following the burning of their south Tripoli headquarters on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan confirmed that the confrontation took place and called for a halt of the fight.

It all started on Wednesday, November 13, 2013, when a peaceful demonstration turned deadly. The march was organized against the presence of armed militias in the Libyan capital, in particular against a militia called Gharghour, named after the area south of Tripoli where it maintains a building as its base. The militia’s men used live ammunition against demonstrators who demanded their departure from the capital. Another group of armed men, carrying all sorts of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades forced themselves into the building, briefly evicting the Gharghour gang, but also resulting in numerous deaths. The latest confrontations in Tripoli seem to be a punitive expedition meant to avenge the Wednesday killings.

Some sources in Libya point the finger to Muamar Gaddafi’s sympathizers as being behind the violence. The local press reported seeing green flag of the former regime as having initiated the first shooting.

The proliferation of militias is a real problem for Libya and the Libyan population wants the government to disband them. Militias often resort to criminal activity, from all sorts of contraband trafficking, to the use of kidnapping for ransom. Militias also have their own prisons and detention centers with no government oversight. Peaceful demonstrations against militias are expected to take place, with the people of Tobruk in the northeast already marching in support for Tripoli. Local governments are also looking for ways to force a change. In Tripoli municipal leaders are considering a call for civil disobedience as a way to get the government to act efficiently. Imam preachers during the Friday prayers called for an end to the militias, relaying a message from the highest religious authorities, including the Grand Mufti.