At least 48 Libyan demonstrators were killed on Friday when a militia group fired at a rally demanding it to abandon a place it has occupied in the capital Tripoli since the 2011 ouster of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime.
Al Arabiya, citing local television, reported that more than 500 people were wounded in the incident, many of whom were in critical condition.
The militias are holdovers from the 2011 uprising that ousted Qaddafi and now a powerful force in the increasingly lawless North African country.
Sadat al-Badri, president of the Tripoli local council, who had called for the protest, told AFP the shots fired at the hundreds of 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.
As the weekly Muslim prayers held hours earlier, imams in their sermons backed the call to protest against militias issued by the town hall as well as Libya’s mufti, reported Al Arabiya.
Hundreds of people carrying white flags in a sign of peace, as well as the national flag, and singing the national anthem had assembled in the capital’s Meliana Square.
They then marched to the Misrata militia headquarters in the Gharghour district to press their demands when gunmen inside fired into the air to scare them off.
When the crowd continued to approach the building, the gunmen started firing at them, reported AFP.
A leader of the militia from Misrata, east of the capital, told private television channel al-Naba that the demonstrators had opened fire first.
Two years after the fall of Qaddafi, militia that helped oust him now control large part of the North African country and regularly fight each other.
Just last week, anti-aircraft gunfire and grenade blasts erupted in several parts of Tripoli as rival militia groups were fighting.
Recent reports indicated that Al-Qaeda terrorists in Libya are trying to get their hands on a massive weapons arsenal that was left behind by the Qaddafi regime.
Qaddafi’s arsenal, which remains in an abandoned desert warehouse in southern Libya, reportedly includes 4,000 surface-to-air missiles, each capable of downing a passenger jet, and thousands of barrels of uranium yellowcake.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)