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Middle East

Clashes between Libya army, Islamists kill 16: sources

Libyan officials examine the airport area following clashes at Tripoli international airport in the Libyan capital on July 21, 2014, after militias stepped up their assault on the country's main airport, which is controlled by opponents. (Hazem Turkia - Anadolu Agency)

BENGHAZI, Libya: Sixteen people, most of them soldiers, were killed and 81 injured in clashes between the Libyan army and Islamist fighters in the eastern city of Benghazi, medical and military sources told AFP Tuesday.

“Most of the dead and injured are soldiers. Three civilians, including an Egyptian, were killed when a rocket hit their house,” a hospital source said on condition of anonymity.

A military official said fighting broke out after an alliance of Islamist militia attacked an army barrack, killing five soldiers.

Special forces soldiers violently battled the Islamists, who have held sway in Benghazi since a 2011 revolution which ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, plunging the nation into turmoil.

Near-daily clashes take place in Libya’s second city between the army and various Islamist groups, including Ansar al-Sharia, which has been classified by Washington as a terrorist organization.

Renegade former Gen. Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive against Islamist militias in Benghazi in May.

Authorities in Tripoli accuse his “National Army” paramilitary force of trying to mount a coup.

Rival militias have been engaged in a bloody battle for Libya’s main international airport in Tripoli for 10 days that has halted all flights and caused extensive damage to airport infrastructure.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 23, 2014, on page 10.

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