The Libyan military has urged residents of a central district of Benghazi to evacuate as it pushes ahead with an offensive against militants in the country’s second-largest city.
“The chief of staff asks all residents of the Assabri district to leave by 12:00 noon [on Monday],” Ahmed al-Mesmari, spokesman for the chief of staff, said on Sunday.
Assabri is the main commercial area of the eastern city and also home to its seaport, which is employed for wheat and petrol imports.
He did not give details, but the army had previously said that members of the so-called Ansar al-Sharia militant group had escaped there after the army had captured other districts.
In a separate development, the Red Crescent evacuated Benghazi’s main childbirth hospital due to clashes close by. The childbirth clinic, which will be moved to another hospital, was struck several times.
Libya’s army, supported by forces loyal to retired General Khalifa Haftar, has launched an operation against militant groups in the coastal city. At least 230 people have been killed since the offensive started.
Libya plunged into chaos following the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The ouster of Gaddafi gave rise to a patchwork of heavily-armed militias and deep political divisions.
The country has been witnessing numerous clashes between government forces and rival militia groups that refuse to lay down arms. The groups are now turning their guns on each other in an attempt to dominate politics and the country’s vast oil resources.
Libya’s government and elected parliament moved to Tobruk after an armed group from the town of Misrata seized the capital, Tripoli, and most government institutions in August.
The new Tripoli rulers have set up a rival parliament and government not recognized by the international community.