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Libya: Militiamen open fire on Tripoli protest, killing 31

March was the biggest show of public anger at militias in months

At least 31 people were killed and 235 were injured when Libyan militiamen opened fire with anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades on demonstrators marching through Tripoli.

The protesters had been carrying Libyan and white flags as they demanded that the country’s militia groups be disbanded. There are hundreds of militias in the country, many of them funded by the government, and the march was the biggest show of public anger at them to date.

Gunfire continued into the night after groups of protesters armed themselves and were joined by rival militia forces.

Ali Zidan, Libya’s Prime Minister, blamed militiamen for the deaths of “31 martyrs”. He said: "The demonstration was peaceful and had been permitted by the interior ministry, and then the protesters were fired on when they entered the Gharghur district."

Al-Taher Basha Agha, commander of Misrata-based militia, dismissed claims the protesters were unarmed and said it was they who first opened fire. He said his force would leave “dead bodies” rather than leave Tripoli.