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Heavy gunfire heard in Libya’s capital Tripoli

(Reuters) – Heavy shooting from guns and anti-aircraft weapons erupted early on Tuesday in the Libyan capital Tripoli, Reuters witnesses said.

The fighting occurred between militias in the eastern Suq al-Juma area, said a militia source with government ties, adding that he had no further information. Reuters reporters in Tripoli could hear intermittent gunfire for three hours.

Facebook website showed what it said were two burned-out cars from the scene of the fighting, though Reuters could not verify its authenticity.

An interior ministry official told Reuters he had no information about the shooting. A defense ministry official declined to comment, while no other officials were immediately available.

OPEC producer Libya faces chaos and anarchy as the government struggles to rein in militias, gangs and Islamist radicals in a country awash with arms two years after the ouster of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Suq al-Juma was a center of resistance against Gaddafi when the Nato-backed 2011 uprising, which had originally started in Libya’s eastern region, eventually spread to the capital.

Separately, dozens of people protested late on Monday in the eastern city of Benghazi against a wave of assassinations and a deteriorating security situation, residents said.

Protesters burned tires in several parts of the port city and demanded the government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and parliament quit.

Benghazi has been rocked by bombings and killings of army and police officers. Many in the oil-rich eastern part of the nation demand autonomy from Tripoli and a greater share of oil wealth, risking splitting the vast desert country.

On Sunday an autonomous movement launched a shadow government in the east, a move that is sure to worsen ties with the weak central government, which has rejected the declaration.

A mix of strikes and protests for higher pay or more political rights has shut down much of Libya’s oil output, depriving the government of its main source of income.

(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Eric Walsh and Paul Simao)

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