News / Middle East

Seven Killed in Clashes Between Army, Militants in Libya's Benghazi


Islamist militants attacked an army base in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Monday, triggering fierce clashes involving helicopters and jets that killed at least seven people and wounded 40 others after days of escalating violence.

Benghazi's clashes followed a week of fighting between rival militias for control of Tripoli International Airport in the capital that has prompted the North Africa country to appeal for international help to stop Libya becoming a failed state.

Tripoli was calmer on Monday, but in Benghazi, militants linked to Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia attacked an army camp and were repelled by troops and forces loyal to renegade retired general Khalifa Haftar, who has been carrying out a self-declared war on Islamist fighters, security sources said.

“Ansar al-Sharia tried to take over one special forces camp, but the special forces and Hafter's forces fought back, using helicopters and military aircraft in their attack,” one source said, asking not to be identified for security reasons.

Since the 2011 civil war that toppled autocrat Moammer Gadhafi, Libya's fragile government and new army have been unable to assert authority over rival brigades of former rebels fighting for political and economic influence.

Ansar al-Sharia is listed by Washington as a foreign terrorist organization, and has entrenched itself in Benghazi, where it has often been blamed for assassinations and attacks on soldiers.

Haftar, a former Gadhafi army officer who fled to the United States after breaking ranks with the Libyan leader, has launched a campaign on the Islamists in Benghazi, bringing to his side elements of the regular army and air force.

Tripoli's central government says he is acting without the authorization of the state. While his campaign is popular with many in the east, his forces appear to be in a stalemate over Benghazi for now.

In the capital, the clash over Tripoli airport in the last week has killed at least 47 people, the health ministry said, in some of the worst violence in the city since the 2011 civil war.

The clashes have stopped most international flights, damaged more than a dozen planes parked at the airport and prompted the United Nations to pull its staff out of the country due to security concerns.

The airport battle mirrors a broader standoff between rival factions competing for power in Libya, each claiming the mantle of rebel savior, each heavily armed and each demanding their share of the post-Gadhafi spoils.

The airport area is under the control of former fighters from the western town of Zintan who have held it since the fall of Tripoli in 2011. Rival Islamist-leaning militias allied with powerful brigades from the city of Misrata have fought with the Zintanis to dislodge them from the airport.

The Zintanis are loosely allied with more nationalist political forces while Misrata and various allied militias are tied to the Islamist Justice and Construction Party, a political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Oil production rising

Three years since Gadhafi's death, the violence and militia rivalries have all but stopped the OPEC country's transition to full democracy as the government struggles to stamp its authority on a country where the state holds little sway.

Many of the former rebel brigades are on the government payroll as quasi-official security forces in a failed bid to bring them under control, but many are more faithful to political factions, tribes or even local commanders in a complex web of loyalties.

Libya's oil resources have often been targeted by different armed groups since 2011 to pressure the government for financial or political gain. Last year a string of protests slashed oil output to less than half the usual 1.4 million barrels per day.

In a rare success, a negotiated deal in April mostly ended a year-long blockade by a former rebel commander over four key oil ports, allowing the country to start slowly rebuilding production, shipping crude and earning vital oil revenue.

Libya state oil company National Oil Corp [NOC] on Monday reached a deal with security guards to end a protest at eastern Brega oil port, which is expected to allow the terminal to reopen on Tuesday, a company spokesman said.

Reopening Brega would allow the state-run Sirte Oil Company to start producing again and further boost Libya's output after the end to other port and oilfield protests. Late last week, NOC said production was around 555,000 barrels per day.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs