News / Middle East

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

Reuters

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

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid