75 bodies found in Benghazi , more diplomats flee Libya

The French embassy in Tripoli has temporarily closed, it said, adding that diplomatic activities would continue to be conducted from Paris for now.

75 bodies found in Benghazi , more diplomats flee Libya

World Bulletin/News Desk

Rival militias fighting for control of Tripoli airport agreed on Wednesday to a temporary ceasefire to allow firefighters to try to control a huge blaze at a fuel depot hit by a rocket.

After a fortnight of the worst fighting since the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, most Western governments have followed the United States and United Nations pulling their diplomats out of the North African country.

The French government said it had temporarily closed its embassy on Wednesday, and evacuated 30 French nationals from Tripoli just a few days after the U.S. embassy evacuated its staff under heavy military escort across the Tunisian border.

Except for sporadic shelling away from the ceasefire zone around the fire near the capital's international airport, Wednesday was the quietest day in the capital Tripoli for two weeks, with less smoke seen from the blaze.

For two weeks, two brigades of former rebels, mainly allied to the towns of Zintan and Misrata, have pounded each other's positions in Tripoli with Grad rockets, artillery fire and cannons, turning the south of the capital into a battlefield.

"Many mediators have succeeded in convincing the militias to stop fighting, at least temporarily," government spokesman Ahmed Lamin said. "They are trying to get them to the negotiating table, we hope they will agree."

It was unclear if the blaze at the airport depot that supplies millions of litres of gasoline and gas to the capital Tripoli was under control on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the state-run National Oil Corporation (NOC) which owns Brega Oil company which operates the tanks, said he did not yet have any update on the situation.

Three years after the fall of Gaddafi, Libya's government is unable to impose its authority on the brigades of former fighters who remain heavily armed and often challenge the state to make political demands.

On Wednesday, the eastern city of Benghazi was also quieter after fighters overran a special forces army base in the city in a major blow to a military campaign against militants there.

At least 75 bodies, mostly soldiers, have been found in Benghazi after two days of fighting, the Libyan Red Crescent and medical sources said.

The Red Crescent found more than 50 bodies inside the base, which special forces abandoned on Tuesday. "We are trying to get them out of the base," said Mohammed al-Misrati, from the Red Crescent.

Sources in the city's hospitals said thay had received at least 25 other bodies.

The self-declared Benghazi Shura Council forces, which includes former rebels and militants from al Ansar al-Sharia, took over the base on Tuesday after fighting involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people.

Special forces troops and irregular forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a renegade former army general who had launched a campaign to clear Benghazi of militants, have withdrawn to an air base outside Benghazi, his spokesman said.

Benghazi's main police station was also completely abandoned on Wednesday morning, a Reuters reporter said.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Temmuz 2014, 17:11

Muhammed Öylek