TRIPOLI – Residents of the Libyan capital launched a general strike Sunday over militia violence that killed nearly 50 people this weekend.
The streets of Tripoli were deserted as the vast majority of the city’s businesses and schools were closed. Bakeries, pharmacies, hospitals and gas stations remained open. Al-Sadat al-Badri, who is head of Tripoli’s city council, said the strike is to last three days.
Armed residents set up checkpoints throughout the city to protect their neighborhoods, fearing renewed violence.
Libya’s state news agency LANA also said Sunday the Misrata militia accused of being responsible for Friday’s killing of 43 people at a protest abandoned its headquarters in the southern Tripoli neighborhood of Gharghour.
Late Saturday, a government-affiliated militia, the Libya Shield-Central Command, said it was in control of Gharghour. In a statement read on Libya’s private al-Ahrar television channel, the militia declared it a military zone and vowed to turn it over to the government. The majority of Libya Shield’s militiamen also hail from Misrata.
Militias from Misrata have a powerful presence in Tripoli.
Many militias have turned villas and residential compounds of former Gadhafi-era officials into camps where they stash weapons.
Friday’s bloodshed left Tripoli on edge. Four people died Saturday in fighting between militias.
Since the fall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, hundreds of militias — many on the government payroll — have 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 force and army but failed.
Sunday, Al-Badri called on militias to leave the capital to allow “the government, the police and the army” to work.