Libyan military plane crashes in Benghazi: military

France says will evacuate its nationals from Libya on Tuesday

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A Libyan military plane crashed and exploded in the restive eastern city of Benghazi after it engaged Islamist militants, a military source and a witness said.

General Sagr al-Jerouchi, chief of air operations for dissident general Khalifa Haftar, said it was not immediately clear if the plane was shot down or suffered a malfunction. He added that it hadjust attacked Islamist positions.

Weekend fighting in Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 revolution that ousted Muammar Qaddafi, killed dozens of people, mostly soldiers.

Combat erupted Saturday when Islamists attacked the headquarters of a special forces unit near the city center. One of the few regular army units located in Benghazi, it backs an anti-Islamist campaign launched by Haftar in May but has not placed itself under his command.

In the capital Tripoli clashes set fire to two major oil depots on Monday threatening to spill an environmental disaster.

Several countries have closed their missions in Libya and withdrawn their diplomatic staff amid fears of possible attacks.

On Tuesday France said it will evacuate its nationals after similar moves by other European nations.

There are less than 100 French nationals in Libya and they will be taken out of the country by ship, the source said, adding that the operation would be over by the afternoon.

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