The parliament sat until late last night to discuss the security problems in the country. A number of MPs called for the removal of top military officials. Army chief of staff, Yousuf Al-Mangoush, later submitted his resignation to the parliament, which accepted it.
Prime Minister Ali Zaydan has ordered an investigation into Saturday’s clashes in Benghazi which resulted in 31 deaths, including five military personnel. An army spokesman said the chiefs of staff regretted the deaths and were monitoring the situation closely.
The BBC quoted a doctor at Benghazi’s main hospital who said some of the deaths were caused by gunshot wounds to the chest, and that there were six cases of amputations among the injured.
Violent clashes erupted in Benghazi between dozens of protesters and members of an armed group affiliated to the interim government. A security spokesman said the clashes started when protesters gathered on Saturday in front of the headquarters of the Dir’a Libya (Libya Shield) brigade, demanding they disband, vacate the headquarters and hand over their weapons.
The Libyan government is experiencing problems forming professional police and army units. It has so far relied on militias who fought against the Gadhafi regime for border security and to keep oil installations safe.
Benghazi witnessed demonstrations against the presence of armed groups in the city in October last year. These followed the killing of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff at the US consulate in Benghazi in September.
The Libyan government is trying to control the activities of the armed militias after a number of incidents, including the occupation of a number of government ministries. The militias, however, refuse to lay down their weapons.
Meanwhile, thousands of residents in Tripoli have held peaceful protests calling for the ending of all signs of militia presence in the capital. Eyewitnesses said the protesters shouted slogans in support of the government and parliament, and against the militias.
The parliament offered condolences to the families of those killed in the clashes, and called in a statement read by its speaker, on all parties to exercise restraint and put the country’s interests above all else.