Black smoke rises from the vicinity of the University of Benghazi where clashes are taking place between pro-government forces and the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, Benghazi October 18, 2014. (REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)
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As fighting raged Friday between Islamist militias and forces loyal to Libya's elected government, the mood was of resigned indifference in this embattled city that once took pride in being the first to have risen up against longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.The latest cycle of violence follows more than two years of dashed hopes and failed attempts by civilians to stand up to the Islamist militias.In May, much of Benghazi supported an offensive by renegade Gen. Khalifa Haftar to take back the city using his own forces and remnants of the national army. The offensive failed, leaving Haftar's troops cornered in the city's airport.One group is dominated by extremist Islamist militiamen – many former rebels who refused to join the army or police – operating under an umbrella group called the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries. Their adversaries, a coalition of pro-government forces and armed civilians, have sided with ultraconservative Salafist fighters known as Sahwa – similar to the Iraqi Sunni militias that joined U.S. troops in the fight against Al-Qaeda at the height of that country's insurgency in 2007 and 2008 .
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