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Continued: Militias attack Libyan protesters demanding end of out-of-control armed groups, killing 31

  • Article by: ESAM MOHAMED , Associated Press
  • Last update: November 15, 2013 - 3:40 PM

The government has put a December deadline on groups to join state security forces or face losing their government paychecks — though it is not clear if the government will cut them off. It has made similar threats in the past.

Eastern militias also have seized control of oil exporting terminals, sending production plunging from 1.4 million barrels a day to around few hundred thousand.

Zidan, who was briefly kidnapped by militiamen himself last month, said his embattled government was working on a plan to drive out all militias from Tripoli.

"There will be no exception," he said. "All militias — including those in Tripoli — will be out."

Friday's march was prompted by a string of incidents involving militias — most recently, street clashes between the Misrata militia and one from Tripoli. The fight was sparked by the killing of one of the Misrata group's commanders, and the gun battles in the street panicked residents.

"We are afraid of more blood and more violence," said lawmaker Tawfiq Breik, from the liberal-leaning National Forces Alliance bloc in parliament. "This could drag on and descend from protesters versus militias to militias versus militias."

For now, Libya's official LANA news agency said there were two battalions deployed to the site of the attack and that soldiers had orders to shoot anyone who was hostile. The country's grand Mufti, or top Islamic scholar, called on protesters to end their demonstrations and said he held the government responsible for ending militias' presence in the capital.

Al-Sadat al-Badri, the head of Tripoli's city council, called for three-day mourning in the capital while asking residents for "self-restraint."

The reaction was reminiscent of a similar scene last year in the eastern city of Benghazi, where thousands of protesters besieged headquarters of Islamic militias, forcing them to flee and clashed with others where dozens were killed. The protests came days after the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in a deadly attack on an American mission in Benghazi.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department said it had been quietly offering rewards since January of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any person involved in the Benghazi attack.

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