Saturday, 17 May 2014 17:16

Dozens killed in Libya clashes, Benghazi airport closed

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Forty-three people were killed in Friday clashes between two militias and army troops loyal to a former general in Libya. The country’s authorities called the military offensive a “coup” and closed Benghazi's airport.

Military aircraft and helicopters fighting for General Khalifa Haftar were involved in the clashes and were spotted flying over Benghazi, Libyan security officials said, as quoted by AP.

The death toll from the clashes in the eastern Libyan city has risen to 43 from, up from the initially reported 19, a health ministry official said on Saturday, as cited by Reuters. Over 100 people were wounded.

"We have closed the airport for the safety of passengers as there were clashes in the city. The airport will be reopened depending on the security situation,” Reuters earlier quoted Ibrahim Farkash, director of Benghazi's Benina Airport, as saying.

Haftar's troops surrounded the bases of Islamist militia Rafallah al-Sahati and a militant group known as February 17, according to officials.

According to Haftar’s spokesman Mohammed al-Hegazi, some Libyan military units have joined the fight against the Islamist militias in an operation he called “Dignity of Libya.”

Meanwhile, the commander of the Rafallah al-Sahati brigade, Ismail al-Salabi, referred to the attack as a coup. Another commander, Fathi al-Obeidi, said Haftar's attack is "a rebellion against revolutionaries, the state and the legitimate revolt."

Libya's chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Abdel-Salam Gadallah al-Obeidi, said he will ban any military forces from entering Benghazi to join Haftar, AP reported. He described the unfolding events as a "coup."

Meanwhile, special forces spokesman Milad al-Zowi has denied that his troops were involved, LANA news agency reported.

Source : Agencies

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