Two soldiers killed in clashes with Islamists in Libya’s Benghazi city
army special forces and allied armed youths made a new push in three districts
Two Libyan soldiers were killed and 15 were injured as heavy fighting erupted again between army forces and Islamist groups in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday, medical staff and military officials said.
Forces loyal to Libya's internationally recognised government have been fighting Islamist groups in the eastern port city for a year, part of a wider struggle since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.
Army forces have regained some territory in Benghazi lost last year, but fighters of the Islamist Majlis al-Shura are still present in several districts and the commercial port area.
On Monday, army special forces and allied armed youths made a new push in three districts, military officials and residents said.
Helicopter strikes against suspected positions of Islamist groups were seen, while gunfire could be heard since the morning.
Two soldiers were killed, a spokesman for the special forces said. That brings the death toll reported by hospitals from fighting in Benghazi this month to 23, medical staff said, adding that 120 people had been wounded.
Top army commander Khalifa Haftar said this week the battle was almost finished, a statement he has made repeatedly over the past six months although fighting has continued.
The battle highlights the chaos in Libya, where armed groups back two governments vying for control. The official prime minister has been based in the east since the capital, Tripoli, was seized by a rival group which set up its own government. Only the eastern government is internationally recognised.
Both sides command loose coalitions of former anti-Gaddafi rebels. After Gaddafi's ouster, the various factions split along political, regional and tribal lines.
The Tripoli government backs the Majlis al-Shura umbrella group, to which Ansar al-Sharia belongs. That group was blamed by Washington for an assault on its diplomatic mission in Benghazi in 2012 that killed the U.S. ambassador.