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Tripoli launches general strike in protest of Libya militias

Residents of Tripoli have launched a general strike after Libyan militiamen killed 43 Friday. Further violence came Saturday, when militiamen stole arms and ammunition and exchanged fire with government-aligned troops.

On Sunday, the streets of Tripoli sat virtually deserted, the vast majority of the city's businesses and schools closed. The object is to send a message to militiamen that the violence they bring is not welcome in Libya's capital.

"We have declared a strike for three days from today, but if our demands are not met we will continue," said Al-Sadat al-Badri, the head of Tripoli's city council. "We will not negotiate with them. Things are as clear as the sun: We want a decision."

Armed residents have set up check-points made from metal, wood and tires throughout the city to protect their neighborhoods for fear of renewed violence.

Continued violence

On Friday, militiamen killed 43 protesters and injured as many as 400 as they waved white flags and demanded that the country's weakened security forces restore law and order. Witnesses said armed men came out of the militia group's buildings and began shooting at the protesters.

Friday's violence led Libya's interim government to call on all militia groups "without exception" to leave Tripoli.

On Saturday, four more people died in fighting. Government-affiliated militia and residents responded by establishing checkpoints along the road from Tajoura to Tripoli's city center. There, thousands gathered to mourn the deaths of the protesters who had come under fire from Misrata militiamen after approaching the group's headquarters on Friday.

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan's armed forces have struggled to control militias, Islamists and other former fighters who refuse to disarm after helping to oust Moammar Gadhafi in the country's 2011 NATO-backed uprising. Just last month, a militia on the government's payroll abducted Zidan himself, but freed him unharmed after a few hours.

mkg/hc (Reuters, dpa, AP)