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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs