Jet bombs militants’ base in Benghazi
TRIPOLI, Libya: A Libyan air force jet bombed positions held by Islamist militants Sunday in the eastern city of Benghazi, a senior military official said, apparently as part of a renegade general’s ongoing offensive.
The official said the bombing targeted a base belonging to a local militia group called February 17 and the area of Sidi Faraj, where members of the extremist organization Ansar Al-Shariah are located.
An official from Ansar Al-Shariah said no one was hurt in the bombing and claimed that one of two rockets fired by the aircraft hit a car dealership.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
The aircraft apparently launched the attack on behalf of a renegade general leading a military campaign against Islamists dominating Libya’s political scene. Gen. Khalifa Hiftar has vowed to crush the Islamists and many military units back him.
Haftar claims to have more than 75 percent of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, under his control. He also says he is getting help from moderate Islamists who were breaking away from their militias and joining his forces. The eastern city was the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
The 70-year-old Haftar is based in Benghazi, where he has been leading an armed revolt since late last month in what is perhaps the biggest challenge yet to Libya’s weak central government and fledgling security forces since Qaddafi’s ouster.
He has dubbed his offensive “Operation Dignity,” saying it is aimed at breaking both Islamic militias and their supporting political factions dominating the parliament, already weakened by constant street protests by Libyans demanding its disbandment.
Backed by military jets flown by pilots who have sided with him, Haftar’s forces frequently have bombed the outskirts of Benghazi, forcing militias to withdraw from their compounds, the general’s spokesman Mohammed Hegazi said.