Libya: blast at arms depot kills 40

State TV said the explosion took place when people tried to steal ammunition

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An explosion at a weapons depot in an air base south of Libya killed more than 40 people on Thursday, a security source said according to Reuters.

The depot in the southern town of Barek al-Shati had mainly tank ammunition, security officials said earlier.

General Mohamed al-Dhabi told AFP that “a group of unknown people tried to attack the depot, causing this unfortunate incident’ in Brak al-Shati, 650 kilometers (400 miles) south of Tripoli.”

State television reported that a group of civilians, among them African immigrants, had been trying to steal the ammunition in order to remove its valuable copper when the explosions occurred.

It said an unspecified number of people had been killed and wounded.

In a separate incident four Libyan soldiers were killed on Thursday in and around Libya’s violence-wracked eastern city of Benghazi, the cradle of the revolution that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

The Benghazi fighting came on the final day of a three-day strike in protest over militias, sparked by a Monday shootout between jihadists and the army that left seven people dead and 50 wounded.

In the day’s worst single incident, three soldiers were killed in a firefight with unidentified gunmen on the city’s eastern outskirts.

‘Three soldiers were killed and three wounded soldiers were admitted to the hospital,’ al-Jala hospital spokeswoman Fadia al-Barghathi told AFP.

A security source said the fighting erupted east of the city, AFP reported.

‘These victims fell in clashes in the Sidi Khalifa district between the army and an armed group that was trying to enter the city from the east,’ the source said, adding that the group’s allegiance was unknown.

Libya has seen mounting unrest since Qaddafi was toppled by a ragtag assortment of rebel brigades, many of which have since been transformed into militias that defy the weak central government.

On Wednesday, U.N. officials said the world body is to send a 235-strong special force to Libya to protect U.N. staff.

The U.N. force, probably to be taken from peacekeeping missions, would guard the U.N. base in the capital Tripoli.

(With AFP and Reuters)