Libya militiamen clash at checkpoint, PM calls for calm


Clashes between rival Libyan militias killed at least one and wounded a dozen others on Saturday a day after more than 40 people died in the worst street fighting in the capital Tripoli since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi two years ago.

Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan called for calm, but his armed forces struggle to control militias, Islamist militants and other former fighters who refuse to surrender their arms 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 the city, killing 42 people.

Gun battles erupted again on Saturday to the east of the capital in Tajoura, where rival militiamen clashed at checkpoints set up to stop more Misrata fighters entering Tripoli, Mohammad Sasi, a local member of Libya’s congress said.

At least one person was killed and 15 more wounded in the Tajoura clashes, a Health Ministry official 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.

Libya 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 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.