Libya: 18 killed in Benghazi fighting

Islamist militants holed up in Benghazi University as army advances

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At least 18 people were killed on Friday in heavy fighting between the Libyan National Army led by renegade General Khalifa Haftar and Islamist militant of Ansar al-Sharia group in the country’s eastern city of Benghazi, Al Arabiya correspondent reported.

Some of the heaviest clashes were taking place around Benghazi University, where Islamist militants were reportedly holed up, the correspondent said.

Benghazi Medical Centre said the dead were mostly soldiers and civilians fighting alongside the army in the central district of al-Majouri, AFP reported.

Over 50 people have been killed since forces of retired General Haftar, backed by army units, launched on Wednesday what he called an operation to "liberate" Benghazi from Islamist militias.

Friday's clashes, which were the fiercest since the start of the operation, saw the two sides using weapons of all calibers in street fighting.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Omar al-Hassi, who was appointed by Islamist-allied militias who took control of the capital, described fighting groups in Benghazi as “brave lions of the revolution.”

It was his first public statement of support for the militias, which include extremist groups.

On Thursday, Libya’s Red Crescent called for a ceasefire in Benghazi to allow the evacuation of families trapped by street fighting between the militants and pro-government forces.

Libyan officials said that nearly 100 people have been killed in fighting across Libya between Islamist-allied militias and their rivals over the past week.

A United Nations report said the fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi has forced some 250,000 people to flee, including 100,000 who have been internally displaced.

[With AFP]

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