BENGHAZI, Libya: Government forces and helicopters belonging to a Libyan renegade general bombed ammunition sites of suspected Islamist militants in the eastern city of Benghazi, a military commander and residents said.
In another sign of Libya’s descent into anarchy, the U.N. mission said fighting in the two main cities Tripoli and Benghazi had displaced 100,000 people. Some 150,000 people, including foreign workers, have fled the oil-producing country.
There has been widespread unrest in the North African country, three years after the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, and Islamist forces have been trying to take the civilian and military airport from government forces in Benghazi.
Western powers and Libya’s neighbors fear the country will turn into a failed state. A weak government is unable to control former rebels who helped topple Gadhafi but now fight each other for power.
Wanis Bukhamada, commander of army special forces in the port city of Benghazi, told Reuters his forces had attacked with artillery several ammunition stores in camps held by Islamists late Wednesday.
Residents also heard and saw helicopters and huge blasts in a Benghazi suburb. War planes could be also heard Thursday.
Benghazi, where the headquarters of state oil firms are located, has been a war zone since renegade army general Khalifa Haftar declared war in May on Islamists, who were roaming the area unchallenged.
He has allied himself with the special forces but despite that alliance, Islamists have managed to overrun several army camps in Benghazi.
Libya’s government and elected House of Representatives has relocated to the remote eastern city of Tobruk after a separate armed group seized the capital of Tripoli and most government institutions last month.
The new Tripoli rulers have set up a rival parliament and government not recognized by the international community.
“Serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law are taking place in the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, with dire consequences for civilians and civilian infrastructure,” the U.N. Mission in Libya said in a report.
“Fighters appear to disregard the likely impact of their action on civilians and have inadequate training and discipline. In addition, the use of badly maintained and faulty weapons and ammunition increases inaccuracy,” the report said.
Like most foreign embassies, the mission in Libya has left the country to escape the fighting.