Libya death toll rises as clashes in Benghazi continue
Up to 13 Libyan soldiers were killed and 50 others wounded in clashes between army forces and militant Islamist groups in the eastern port city of Benghazi on Thursday, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.
Two cars loaded with explosives targeted a military checkpoint near Benina International Airport in Benghazi, Al Arabiya’s Benghazi correspondent quoted the commander of army’s special forces in Benghazi, Wanis Bukhmada, as saying.
An Al Hawari Hospital source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said some of the wounded required surgery and special care.
Many of the wounded are members of Ansar Shariah, according to the same source.
Four airstrikes have targeted Islamist militants’ positions and more will be carried out soon, an army source said.
The militants have already overrun army bases in the port city, making Benina’s airport one of the last large government bases.
Libya plunged into violence after the toppling of dictator Moammar Qaddafi in 2011 as competing groups took up arms against each other to claim power in the oil-rich country.
In Benghazi, the special forces allied with renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s brigades to fight the rival Islamist militants including Ansar Shariah.
Washington has blamed Ansar Shariah for the attack on the U.S. consulate in September 2012 in which the U.S. ambassador was killed.
The capital Tripoli is under the control of militant Islamist groups, led by brigades from the western city of Misrata, forcing the elected and internationally recognized Libyan parliament to relocate to Tobruk.
With the presence of a weak central government challenged by a well-armed alternate parliament, and the absence of a strong national army, Western powers fear Libya could become a failed state.