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Libya's capital goes on strike over deadly militia attack

| Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, 9:36 p.m.

TRIPOLI, Libya — Residents of the Libyan capital executed a general strike on Sunday and held protests, demanding the city's myriad powerful militias be disbanded because of violence in which nearly 50 people were killed over the weekend.

Tripoli residents are seething with anger over the violence that erupted on Friday, particularly directed at powerful militias from the western city of Misrata operating in the capital. The violence broke out when thousands of protesters marched on a neighborhood controlled by a number of powerful Misrata militias, prompting some militiamen to open fire, killing 43 people.

A day later, another militia attempted to overrun a military base, resulting in a clash with government forces that left four dead.

In an apparent angry response, Misrata's city council announced late Sunday that it is withdrawing its representatives from the interim national parliament and from the cabinet. Misrata has at least two ministers in the government: the economy and culture ministers.

The Misrata city council called on all armed groups, even those who are working under the government, to withdraw from the capital for a 72-hour period.

In its statement, the council held the government responsible for the security situation in Tripoli and for the safety of citizens originally from Misrata. There was no government reaction to the decision.

Earlier Sunday, a security official said the deputy intelligence chief was abducted as he left Tripoli's airport. It was not clear who abducted Mustafa Nouh, whose family is originally from Misrata.

Public anger had been directed at the militias from Misrata, who had developed a strong presence in the capital following the fall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Except for several protests, streets were deserted as the vast majority of Tripoli's businesses and schools were closed, with bakeries, pharmacies, hospitals and gas stations the main exception. The head of Tripoli's city council, Al-Sadat al-Badri, said the strike is to last three days.

Armed residents have set up checkpoints to protect their neighborhoods.

On Sunday, nearly a hundred protesters entered the parliament building while lawmakers were in session.

Lawmaker Fatma al-Misbari said the interim parliament was under strong pressure, but did not specify from whom.

Libya's militias originated in the “revolutionary” brigades that fought against Gadhafi's forces in 2011. Since his ouster and death, they have refused to disarm and have grown in size and power.

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