News / Middle East

Libyan Forces, Islamist Militants Clash in Benghazi

Edward Yeranian
Libyan military forces loyal to a retired general attacked militants in Benghazi on Friday.

Hospital officials say at least 13 people were killed and 100 wounded in fierce fighting in eastern Libya.

Libyan military forces loyal to retired General Halifa Hafter fought battles against the Islamist group Ansar al Shariah and other Islamist militias in the city of Benghazi.

Libyan state television showed black smoke rising over Benghazi after government warplanes attacked Islamist militia bases. The report said the targets were bases belonging to Ansar al Shariah and two other Islamist militant groups.

Al Arabiya TV reported that several thousand members of Libya's army, navy and air force joined General Hafter, a former army chief of staff, in Friday's military operation.

Benghazi is a stronghold of militias with roots in the rebel brigades that toppled long-time Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi in September 2012 during an assault by militants on the U.S. consulate.

Islamist militants

The report said the targets were bases belonging to Ansar al Shariah and two other Islamist militant groups - the February 17th Brigade and the Rafalah Sahaty Brigade.

Libya's interim prime minister, Abdallah Thani, resigned last month, but is still leading the government in a caretaker capacity.

Speaking to reporters after the airstrike, he said all sides - Islamist militias and government military units - must refrain from violence and obey orders from Libya's official military command structure.  

Thani said that incidents such as the clashes in Benghazi are preventing the government from restoring order and putting a stop to crime and terrorism there.

He called on militia leaders to follow orders from the army's chief of staff, and urged all military units and police to oppose outside forces trying to enter Benghazi.

Thousands involved

The prime minister did not mention the general by name, but warned the Libyan military to disregard orders from anyone involved in what he called a coup attempt.

The current Libyan army chief of staff, Abdessalem Jadallah, denied that any government forces were fighting in Benghazi.

Jadallah, who is reported to have ties to an Islamist militia himself, told Libyan state TV that “revolutionary forces” - presumably forces loyal to him - to “oppose outside fighters trying to seize Benghazi.”

Hafter's supporters, including Colonel Mohamed Hijazi, told Libyan TV that those in the military who oppose the activities of Islamist militias are trying to restore order to their country:

Hijazi said his men "are defending the nation against extremist Islamist militias." He said the militias have been "setting off car bombs and killing and massacring (innocent people) in the name of religion."

Hijazi said Islamist militias already are in control of portions of Libyan territory including Darnah (or Derna), a port city east of Benghazi.

Libyan TV reported a top general from the government air force also joined the renegade military operation in Benghazi, using air bases in Tobruk and Drina for bombing runs aimed at militants in Benghazi, Baida, Merja, Sahat and Soussa.

Thani, however, insisted that only “one government warplane ... disobeyed orders” and took part in the operation.

Continuing violence

Unruly militias control large swathes of Libya, provoking sporadic outbursts of violence, chaos and insecurity.

Government officials, military commanders, foreign diplomats, businessmen and workers have been attacked, kidnapped and sometimes killed. Jordan's ambassador, held by kidnappers for nearly a month, was released earlier this week.

In a related development, Reuters reported Friday that “protesters” took control of several oil ports in eastern Libya.

Separatists belonging to the self-styled “Regional Government of Barqa” recently returned several ports to government control after a lengthy dispute over oil revenues.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid