Two killed as Libyan forces, militants clash in Benghazi

Libyan irregular forces backed by helicopters clashed with militias in Benghazi in fighting that left at least two people dead

Two killed as Libyan forces, militants clash in Benghazi

World Bulletin/News Desk

Libyan irregular forces backed by helicopters and led by a retired army general clashed with militias in the eastern city of Benghazi, killing at least two people, security and medical sources said on Friday.

Amid a broad decay of national law and order since the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, militants have been blamed for a string of assassinations and bombings against the military in Benghazi, repeatedly fighting army special forces. But they have dug in at bases on the city outskirts.

Fighters led by retired General Khalifa Haftar had shelled bases belonging to Ansar al-Sharia and another militant group in Benghazi, said Mohamed Al-Hejazi, who said he was a spokesman for his self-declared Libyan National Army.

The situation was unclear, but witnesses said a regular army helicopter had been used in some of the assaults on the bases.

Libya's army chief of staff told state television he had given no orders for any regular military units to attack bases in Benghazi.

At least two people were killed and another 10 injured in the clashes, medical sources at a local hospital said.

Hejazi said militants had fled from their bases into the city, complicating their military operation.

Haftar, a leading figure in the anti-Gaddafi revolt, in February stirred rumours of a coup by appearing in military uniform to call for a presidential committee to be formed to govern until new elections.

It was not clear how much support he commands in the country's nascent army, which is still in training. Tripoli's government in February said he had no authority and threatened legal action against him.

But the government is fragile and the parliament almost paralysed by rivalries, with little progress to full democracy made since 2011. A planned new constitution is still unwritten and the country is on its third prime minister since March.

U.S. and European countries are helping build up a regular army but Libya's armed forces and government cannot control brigades of ex-rebels and militants who once fought Gaddafi but have since refused to disarm and often challenge the state.

The North African nation's vital oil export industry has suffered badly and is often targeted by armed protesters seeking a greater share of oil wealth, federalist power for the regions or just better basic services.

Since last summer, armed protesters have repeatedly closed down ports and oilfields, bringing production down to around 300,000 barrels per day from the 1.4 million bpd that the OPEC member state produced before the protests erupted.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Mayıs 2014, 16:45