Thirty-two fighters loyal to Libya’s unity government were killed in clashes with ISIS militants and a car bombing Wednesday near the ISIS stronghold of Sirte, the military said.
“The toll of today’s martyrs reached 32, and 50 others were wounded,” the operations room set up by the new Government of National Unity (GNA) said on its Facebook page and Twitter account late Wednesday, updating an earlier toll of 18 dead.
Of the earlier toll, seven died in a car bomb attack in Buairat el-Hassun, 60 kilometers (35 miles) west of Sirte and the others were killed in an IS foray in Abu Grein, further west, that the GNA recaptured on Tuesday.
Libya descended into chaos after the toppling and death of Muammar Qaddafi five years ago and soon turned into a battleground of rival militias battling for powers. More recently, the power vacuum has allowed ISIS radicals to expand their presence, giving them a potential base in a country separated from Europe only by a relatively small stretch of the Mediterranean Sea.
In a related story, bank guards shot dead three people as they tried to disperse a crowd of hundreds of people queuing for cash outside a bank in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Wednesday, a security official said.
Libyan banks have been suffering from severe liquidity problems, which bankers say is partly caused by people withdrawing cash and keeping it at home due to concerns over security.
For months, long queues have formed daily outside banks across the country, and in some cases people have begun queuing overnight.
Banks have placed limits on withdrawals, with residents in the capital currently restricted to taking out a maximum of 200 Libyan dinars at a time. That is the equivalent of about $145 at the official exchange rate, but just $50 at black market rates.
Wednesday’s shooting happened outside the North Africa Bank in Tripoli's Qaser Bin Ghasir neighborhood, said Salah Eddin Al-Marghani, a security official for southern Tripoli.
“One of six members of security team securing the bank shot in the air when there was a stampede among the crowd, but mistakenly hit the building and then the people,” he said.
The guards had been placed under investigation, Marghani said.
Libya’s economy has been severely damaged due to political strife and conflict following the uprising against Qaddafi in 2011.
The country is largely dependent on oil revenues, but these have slumped as prices have fallen and labor disputes, factional rivalries and militant attacks have slashed production.
(With AFP, Reuters)