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UN Mission in Libya Urges Restraint as Benghazi Clashes Kill 31

Libya Unrest Leaves 31 Dead as Protests Demand Militia Curbs
Protesters run during clashes with a Libyan militia in the city of Benghazi on June 8, 2013. Photographer: Abdullah Doma/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations mission to Libya called for “maximum restraint” from all parties following the death of 31 people in clashes with a militia in the eastern city of Benghazi over the weekend.

In a statement yesterday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya reiterated “the necessity of resolving disagreements peacefully through dialogue.”

Clashes between the Libya Shield brigade and protesters in Benghazi on June 8 left 31 dead and at least 120 wounded, the state-run LANA news agency reported, more than doubling an earlier fatality count.

The violence erupted after demonstrators demanding that the power of militias be curbed reached the gates of the brigade, LANA said. The news agency had earlier reported that 11 people had been killed and 38 injured in the fighting in Benghazi, the city where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in an attack last year.

Libyan Army Chief of Staff Youssef Mangoush resigned yesterday during a closed-door session of the General National Congress, LANA reported. Mangoush’s action was accepted by parliament, the agency said.

The Libya Shield abandoned its base following Saturday’s violence, according to Libyan television station Al Asima. Adel Tarhuni, a spokesman for Libya Shield, told the station that one of his soldiers was killed and four others were wounded by protesters who were armed and hurled stones. “We had to defend ourselves,” he said.

The Libya Shield and other militias formed by rebels who fought dictator Muammar Qaddafi in the country’s 2011 civil war remained intact after he was toppled and killed. They have challenged the authority of the weak central government that has emerged since and have been linked to continuing violence that plagues the country.

The protests in Benghazi, and another in the capital, Tripoli, had been called in support of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zaidan’s demand that illegal militias disband or come under control of the country’s security forces.

Chad’s President Idriss Deby said in an interview published June 8 by the French daily Le Figaro that Libya is increasingly controlled by brigades of jihadists and Islamist militants because it has no army, no institutions and no civil society.

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