Gunfight in Libya’s eastern city leaves 7 dead

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A gunfight between protesters and former rebels aligned with the military in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi left seven people dead on Saturday, a health official said, the latest episode of lawlessness to hit the North African country.

The clashes also left 37 people wounded, according to the doctor in the city’s main hospital. A security official said the fighting broke out after protesters stormed a base belonging to Libya Shield, a grouping of pro-government militias tasked to maintain security. The protesters were demanding the militias to give up their weapons and submit to the full authority of Libya’s security forces.

Libya is going through a rocky transition after its bloody 2011 civil war. The central government remains weak and has been challenged by powerful militia groups, initially formed of ex-rebels who fought dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s forces during the war. Successive governments have relied on them to maintain security, but they have also been blamed for ongoing violence and the government has struggled to enforce its authority over them.

Security remains elusive in the country, still awash with weapons from the war and prone to violent escalations over private and political affairs.

Last week for example a personal feud sparked clashes between tribes of African and Arab origins in southern Libya, leaving five people dead. A security official said warring factions fired light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at each other.

Benghazi was also the site of an attack last September that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Both officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

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