Members of two Libyan militias clashed in Tripoli Thursday after the death of one of their leaders, witnesses and security officials said as intense gunfire could be heard in the capital.

The clashes erupted after militia chief Nuri Friwan died from wounds he incurred at a checkpoint manned by former rebels from Soug al-Jomaa, an eastern Tripoli district.

To avenge his death armed members of the Misrata militia drove to the Soug al-Jomaa district in vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft guns, blocking the main road to the area, witnesses said.

Around 11:00 pm (2100 GMT) gunfire could still be heard but it was not immediately clear if there had been any casualties.

When Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi was overthrown and killed in October 2011, the rebels were hailed as heroes for bringing an end to more than four decades of dictatorship.

But since then, they have formed militias with different ideologies and motivations.

Today they stand accused of being responsible for many of Libya's ills, notably the instability that still plagues parts of the North African nation.

Many militias have rejected the government's demands to turn in their weapons or join the national security forces, and a patchwork of armed groups effectively controls much of the country.