Tuesday, July 29, 2014
At least 160 killed so far in fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi
Black smoke over Benghazi after clashes between militants, former rebel fighters and government forces. (Photo Rreuters, 27 July)
Libyan forces on Tuesday battled Islamist militants with rockets and warplanes for control of an army base in the eastern city of Benghazi after at least 30 people were killed in overnight fighting. Intense fighting in Benghazi, Libya's second city, and battles between rival militias in the capital Tripoli have pushed Libya deeper into chaos after two weeks of the fiercest violence since the 2011 civil war ousted Muammar Gaddafi. So far, at least 160 people have died during the clashes in the two cities, according to the Libyan health ministry.
Three years after Gaddafi's fall, Libya has failed to control ex-rebel militias who refuse to disband and who are threatening the unity of the country. The extent of the hostilities has increased worries that Libya is sliding towards becoming a failed state.
In Benghazi, battles have intensified since special forces and regular air force units joined ranks with a renegade army general, Khalifa Haftar,who launched a campaign against Islamist militants entrenched in the city, the home of the revolution against Gaddafi's more than 40-year rule.
Groups of terrorists calling themselves al-Shoura Council Forces are attacking the government's main military base," Colonel Wanis Bukhamada, a special forces spokesman in Benghazi, told Reuters. "We have received 30 corpses so far," a medical source told Reuters at Benghazi's main hospital.
Islamist fighters from one of those groups, Ansar al Sharia, classified as a foreign terrorist organization by Washington, have been blamed by authorities for carrying out the attack on the U.S. Benghazi consulate in 2012 in which the U.S. ambassador was killed.
Tripoli was quieter on Tuesday than over the last fortnight during which the two brigades of former rebels, mainly from the towns of Zintan and Misrata, have pounded each other's positions with Grad rockets, artillery fire and cannons, turning the south of the capital into a battlefield.