Libyans Begin Strike in Tripoli to Protest Violence

A general strike in the Libyan capital entered its second day, shuttering shops, schools and government offices, in an expression of outrage over mounting militia violence that left dozens dead over the weekend.

As the shutdown took hold in Tripoli, the country’s deputy intelligence chief became the latest victim of violence, taken hostage by kidnappers terrorizing the oil-rich North African nation.

The three-day strike, declared by the Tripoli city council, marked the latest effort by civilians to push back against militias whose refusal to disarm has thwarted government efforts to stabilize the nation more than two years after Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster and killing.

Hospitals, bakeries, pharmacies and gas stations were exempted from the shutdown.

Lawmakers also plan to summon Prime Minister Ali Zaidan, the defense minister and the military chief for questioning in connection with Nov. 15 violence in Tripoli’s Gharghour neighborhood, legislator Asmaa Sreba said by phone from Tripoli. Protesters went to the parliament yesterday to present a list of demands, including the swift formation of a strong army and police force, Sreba said.

Dozens Killed

At least 43 people, according to the Health Ministry’s count, were killed when militiamen from the city of Misrata opened fire on demonstrators demanding armed men leave Tripoli. A policeman and a photojournalist were among the victims, the Libya Al-Ahrar and Al-Wataniya channels reported yesterday. It was some of the worst violence since the uprising against Gadhafi.

“The militia thought by virtue of remaining inside Tripoli that their presence was accepted, but that’s wrong,” Ahmed Al-Atrash, a political science professor at the University of Tripoli, said by phone.

Demonstrations had been called by the Tripoli city council, the country’s highest Muslim cleric and various civic organizations, to protest “unlawful armed manifestations” in the city. Zaidan, in televised speech to the nation, said it was “imperative” that all militia exit Tripoli because “there is no hope in building an army in Libya unless these armed groups are disbanded.”

Vacate Order

The Misratans, in a statement released by their city council, said any government order to vacate Tripoli must apply to all areas, several Libyan channels reported. Gharghour is now under the control of the Libya Shield, an ally of the central government that has been accused of killing more than 30 people protesting against them in the eastern city of Benghazi earlier in the year, Libya Al-Ahrar reported.

In a separate statement on its Facebook page, the Misrata city council said yesterday that it would withdraw its representatives from parliament and the cabinet. The statement said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure security in Tripoli as well as Misrata, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) to the east.

In another sign of the security challenges confronting the nation, the country’s deputy intelligence chief was abducted, the private al-Nabaa channel reported, without elaborating. His abduction was the latest in a series of high-level kidnappings, including Zaidan himself, often at the hands of militias or other gangs. The premier was taken from a Tripoli hotel on Oct. 10 and released hours later.

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