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

Map Shows Every US School Shooting Since 2013

There have been at least 150 school shootings in the United States since 2013, an average of nearly one per week More

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs