Army on ‘alert’ after Benghazi clashes
Nine soldiers were killed and 49 injured as gunfire and explosions were heard in the Libyan city
Libya’s army has declared a “state of alert” and ordered all troops to report for duty after clashes with a militant group in Benghazi led to the death of at least nine soldiers on Monday, military and medical officials said.
Gunfire and explosions could be heard in the city and thick smoke rose from the Ras Obeida area, witnesses said told Reuters.
“A violent clash has been taking place for several hours between our forces and an Ansar al-Sharia cell,” Colonel Milud al-Zwei, spokesman for Libya’s special forces, told Agence France-Presse.
The interior minister said nine people were killed and 49 others wounded, updating an earlier toll, AFP reported.
Libya has been plagued with a recent surge of violence over the past few weeks.
Libya’s government announced plans last Tuesday to remove militias from the capital and eventually integrate them into the security forces, after a weekend of deadly clashes between militiamen and residents.
At least 45 people were killed and around 400 were wounded in street gun battles between Libyan militiamen and residents in the capital Tripoli last week which were sparked by a protest against the former rebels who played a role in Libya’s 2011 revolt against former leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Such rebels refused to disarm after the NATO-backed uprising against Qaddafi, causing the new military to struggle to contain the rebel’s activities in the post-Qaddafi era.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday vowed to work with the international community to try and restore order in Libya following the recent escalation in violence.
(With AFP and Reuters)