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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid