Deadly clashes after Libya protest

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Media captionPeaceful protests outside the militia headquarters soon turned violent

At least 25 people have died in Benghazi in eastern Libya, in clashes that erupted during protests outside a militia headquarters.

Dozens more were wounded in the violence, medical officials say.

Demonstrators had gathered outside the headquarters of the Libya Shield Brigade demanding the disbanding of militias, residents say.

Since Col Gaddafi's death in 2011, the government has been trying to tackle the presence of armed militias.

The Libya Shield Brigade, which played a role in the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, has so far refused to lay down its weapons.

The militia say they are operating with defence ministry approval.

'Reserve force'

One witness said he had seen around 200 protesters from an area to the east of Benghazi. While most of them were unarmed, a few had AK-47 rifles, he said.

"When I was there I didn't see any of the people use them. "

Image caption Benghazi was the scene of deadly anti-militia protests last year

The demonstrators were demanding the brigade leave its premises, army spokesman Abdallah al-Shaafi told the BBC.

"There is a special force now that will be deployed," he adds.

Spokesman for the army chief of staff Ali al-Sheikhi described the Libya Shield brigade as "a reserve force under the Libyan army", speaking to Libya's Lana news agency.

He said an attack on the brigade "is considered an attack against a legal entity".

The latest clashes are reminiscent of Benghazi's deadly anti-militia protests last year, says the BBC's Rana Jawad in Tripoli, when tens of thousands took to the streets to eject a number of armed groups that they blamed for the continuing lawlessness in the city.

This followed the deadly attack against the US consulate in Benghazi that killed four people, including US ambassador Chris Stevens.

Some officials condemned the attack on some of the largest brigades in the city, saying they were operating under the ministry of defence, our correspondent says.

Struggling to form its own professional army and police force, the new administration in Libya has often given the brigade licence to intervene in tribal conflicts.

However, residents consider the brigade to be an armed group operating outside the remit of the army.

Growing resentment towards armed militias was compounded after militiamen laid siege to various government ministries in Tripoli in April.

Former rebel fighters surrounded the foreign and justice ministries in the Libyan capital demanding the expulsion of officials who worked in the government during the Gaddafi era.