Islamists storm Benghazi base as chaos grips Libya

A general view shows fire burning at a fuel depot near the airport road in Tripoli July 29, 2014.

A general view shows fire burning at a fuel depot near the airport road in Tripoli July 29, 2014.

Islamist fighters and militants overran a major Libyan army base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a fierce battle involving rockets and warplanes in which at least 30 people were killed, Reuters reported.

Special Forces had to abandon their main camp in southeast Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from Islamist fighters and militias, the news agency quoted military officials and residents as saying.

“We have withdrawn from the army base after heavy shelling,” Fadel Al-Hassi, Saiqa Special Forces official said.

Evacuation

The incident happened shortly after France said it was evacuating its nationals from Libya amid increasing lawlessness and unrest.

France followed similar moves by other European nations including the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain.

The United States for its part evacuated its embassy, citing a real risk because of fighting between troops loyal to the Libyan government and Islamists.

The United Nations and Turkish embassies have shut their operations.

Several countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Egypt, at the weekend advised their nationals to leave immediately.

Mustapha Abu Shagur

Also on Tuesday, an armed group abducted a former Libyan deputy prime minister and newly-elected MP, Mustapha Abu Shagur, in the capital Tripoli, his nephew said, according to Agence France-Presse.

“Men in three cars kidnapped my uncle from his house and took him away to an unknown destination,” Issam al-Naass said.

“Twenty minutes before his abduction, Mr Abu Shagur received a call from a stranger who asked him to leave the house because of imminent danger,” he added.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the kidnapping.

Abu Shagur was elected a deputy in Libya’s June 25 legislative election, in which he stood as an independent candidate.

He is due to take up his post on August 4, at the opening session of the Chamber of Representatives, elected in place of an interim parliament, the General National Congress.

Oil depot

Meanwhile an inferno has blazed since Sunday at an oil depot on the outskirts of Tripoli after a rocket struck a tank containing more than six million litres (1.6 million gallons) of fuel.

State-owned National Oil Corp warned of a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe after the tank exploded.

Intense fighting in Benghazi and Tripoli, where many oil ports are based, 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 Qaddafi.

 
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