Fresh violence claims 21 lives in two Libyan cities
More than 20 people have reportedly been killed and dozens of others wounded in a fresh wave of violence in the Libyan cities of Benghazi and Misrata.
Libyan medical and security sources said Thursday that intense fighting between militants and forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government has left 19 soldiers killed and 36 others wounded in Benghazi over the past 24 hours.
The casualties came as the Libyan forces, headed by army chief General Khalifa Haftar, have started a new operation to retake the strategic city from militants.
Reports said Libyan warplanes targeted several positions belonging to the militants in Benghazi overnight and early Thursday morning.
The army forces are trying to seize the district of al-Laithi, one of the militants’ major strongholds in the port city, the reports added.
Elsewhere, a bomber detonated his explosive-laden vehicle at a security checkpoint near the northwestern city of Misrata, killing at least two security guards and injuring several others.
Sources say the forces allied to the self-declared government controlling the capital Tripoli and western Libya were the main target of the attack.
The Takfiri ISIL terror group has claimed responsibility for the fatal bombing.
Misrata is a power base for the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) militia, who took over the capital, Tripoli, in the summer last year and set up their own self-declared government and parliament.
The latest developments come a day after a series of fierce clashes between Libya Dawn militants and ISIL terrorists reportedly left dozens of people dead in the city of Sirte.
Libya has two rival governments vying for control of the country, with one faction controlling Tripoli, and the other, Libya’s internationally recognized government, governing the cities of Bayda and Tobruk.
The government and elected parliament moved to the eastern city of Tobruk after Libya Dawn militia and some armed groups based in the northwestern city of Misrata seized Tripoli and most government institutions in August 2014.
Several rounds of peace talks brokered by the United Nations have been held in recent months aimed at forming a unity government between the rival factions. The peace talks have failed to deliver any practical results so far.
The presence of Takfiri ISIL terrorists in Libya has further complicated the situation in the violence-wracked North African country.
Libya plunged into chaos after the ouster of longtime dictator, Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, which gave rise to a patchwork of heavily-armed militias and deep political divisions.