At least 43 people died and nearly 500 were wounded during a demonstration in the Libyan capital against the presence of armed militias, medical officials said Saturday.
The Tripoli Local Council, as the capital city's government is known, declared three days of mourning in the wake of the killings.
Numerous wounded people were in serious condition at the capital's Abu Salim hospital, Efe confirmed, noting that authorities called for blood donations and the mobilization of medical personnel due to the magnitude of the tragedy.
Hundreds of people participating Friday in a peaceful march to demand the exit of armed militias from Tripoli were met by indiscriminate gunfire when they approached the headquarters of one of the armed bands.
Chaos erupted among the demonstrators after the shooting began and brigades of militiamen from different parts of Tripoli and armed civilians subsequently arrived at the scene, leading to further violence.
"The worst thing for the Libyan people is the presence of arms outside the control of the state forces, the army and the police," Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said Friday in condemning the attack and calling for restraint on all sides.
Friday's anti-militia demonstration followed a call from the Tripoli Local Council for protests against the continuing presence of the armed bands more than two years after the toppling of Moammar Gaddafi's regime.
Protesters gathered in the center of the capital and then marched to the Gharghour district, bastion of the militia from the city of Misrata.
Shooters inside homes fired at the marchers, spurring a violent reaction from the militia opponents, who set fire to the residences.
Some of the protesters were armed, according to Zeidan, who said the security forces declined to intervene "so as not to complicate the situation." EFE