TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Soldiers and government-affiliated militias tried to retake a military base occupied by gunmen in Libya's capital on Saturday, leaving four dead in fresh fighting a day after a deadly militia attack on protesters.
A fighter on the government side said one of his comrades was shot dead in the combat in the Tajoura neighborhood of eastern Tripoli, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief journalists. A hospital official later said that three others were killed and 13 people were wounded. He too spoke anonymously for the same reasons.
The militia that attacked the base is from the city of Misrata and had agreed not to enter the base, Col. Musbah al-Harna told state news agency LANA from the base. The militiamen later took weapons and ammunition from the base and withdrew to the edge of the city.
Tripoli has been on edge since other militiamen from Misrata opened fire Friday on protesters who had been demanding the disbanding of unlawful armed groups, killing 43 and wounding 400, the Interior Ministry told LANA.
Many stores in the city were closed on Saturday. Tripoli officials have declared a three-day mourning period.
Also on Saturday, Prime Minister Ali Zidan warned militias from outside the capital against entering, saying it could lead to a "bloodbath," LANA reported.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya condemned the violence, urging Libyans to exercise "maximum restraint" and resolve their differences peacefully.
Since the 2011 fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, hundreds of militias — many on the government payroll — sprung up across Libya, carving out zones of power, defying state authority and launching violent attacks. The government has tried to incorporate them into the fledgling police and army but failed.
Misrata militiamen in particular have sparked public outrage.
Security remained tight in Tripoli Saturday ahead of expected funeral processions for those killed Friday. Government-affiliated militias and armed residents set up checkpoints throughout the city and at its borders to prevent gunmen from entering.