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Heavy gunfire near Libya's parliament: reports

A man looks at destroyed warehouses following Friday's clashes between Libyan irregular forces and Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi May 17, 2014. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

TRIPOLI: An Associated Press reporter says heavy gunfire has erupted outside the Libyan parliament in the capital, Tripoli.

The gunfire, which can be heard kilometers (miles) away, followed a meeting of heavily armed militia outside the parliament. Libya's Alahrar television station said the gunfire Sunday followed warnings received by lawmakers that there will be an attack on the parliament.

The TV station said the parliamentary session was adjourned. It is not clear who the attacking militias were.

A rogue general carrying out an offensive against Islamist militias in the country's east has challenged the interim government and parliament, saying he will press on with his operation. Gen. Khalifa Hifter say the authorities have no mandate.

The death toll from fighting over the weekend in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi between troops loyal to a rogue general and Islamist militias has risen to 70, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

It said 141 people were also injured in the fighting, which broke out on Friday.

Benghazi, birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled Libya's late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, was quiet on Sunday, but its airport remained closed for the second successive day.

Libya's weak central government describes the offensive, which began Friday by Gen. Khalifa Hifter, and included air support, as tantamount to a coup. The violence there showed how precarious government control remains three years after the 2011 civil war that toppled Gadhafi.

Libya's military banned flights Saturday over Benghazi and said in a statement that it would target any military aircraft flying over the city, where the uprising against Gadhafi began.

In a statement late Saturday, Libya's interim prime minister, parliament speaker and the head of military warned Hifter against further pursuing his offensive and threatened the troops cooperating with him.

In a joint statement read by parliament speaker Nouri Abu Sahmein they accused Hifter of using the rise in violence in Benghazi to "pursue personal gains or turn against the state legitimacy." They also said Hifter is wanted by the country's military prosecutor.

Hifter, however, vowed to press on with his campaign in Benghazi to restore security, charging that the current interim Cabinet has no mandate. In comments to the press aired on television, Hifter said: "Today is the start of a national battle. It is not a coup, it is not a quest for authority."

He added: "All Libyan blood is sacred but the terrorism and its servants wanted a battle."

 

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Summary

Gen. Khalifa Hifter say the authorities have no mandate.

The death toll from fighting over the weekend in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi between troops loyal to a rogue general and Islamist militias has risen to 70, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

Libya's weak central government describes the offensive, which began Friday by Gen. Khalifa Hifter, and included air support, as tantamount to a coup.

In a joint statement read by parliament speaker Nouri Abu Sahmein they accused Hifter of using the rise in violence in Benghazi to "pursue personal gains or turn against the state legitimacy". They also said Hifter is wanted by the country's military prosecutor.


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