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United forces to regain Tripoli: Libya PM

Four people are killed in Benghazi after a suicide bomber blows up his car at a checkpoint

Published: Updated:

Libya’s internationally recognized prime minister told Agence France Presse on Saturday that military forces in the strife-torn country had united to try to recapture Tripoli and the second city Benghazi from Islamist militias.

"All military forces have been placed under army command to liberate Tripoli and Benghazi soon, inshallah [God willing]," Abdullah al-Thani said in an interview with AFP by telephone from the eastern town of Al-Baida.

Since a 2011 revolution which toppled Libya’s longtime leader Moammar Qaddafi, interim authorities have failed to establish a regular army and had to rely on state-backed militias.

Former rebels who fought against Qaddafi have formed powerful militias and seized control of large parts of turmoil-gripped Libya over the past three years.

An operation launched Wednesday against Islamist militias in Benghazi by former Gen. Khalifa Haftar is "under the command of the regular army and the control of government and parliament," Thani said.

Four people were killed in Benghazi Saturday after a suicide bomber blew up his car at a checkpoint operated by armed youths allied with government forces against Islamist militants.

The Benghazi Medical Center said it had received three bodies and the remains of the suicide bomber in addition to other that have been injured in the attack.

The attack targeted residents of the central Benghazi area of Boudhima, who had apparently set-up a roadblock at the entrance to their neighborhood.

The attack follows heavy clashes on Friday which killed at least 18 people in Benghazi.

Fighting between the Libyan National Army led by Haftar and Islamist militant of Ansar al-Sharia group raged in the country’s eastern city, 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.

Haftar launched first an unsuccessful campaign against the Islamists in Benghazi in May but without the support of authorities.

At the time, the authorities accused the former Qaddafi-era general – who spent years in exile before returning to join the revolution – of trying to mount a coup.

Before this week's assault, Haftar's forces had been steadily beaten back to a final redoubt at Benghazi's airport, which has come under attack by Islamists since mid-September.

Thani's government and parliament, elected on June 25, have taken refuge in the country's east to escape Fajr Libya, or Libya Dawn, a mainly Islamist coalition which seized control of Tripoli at the end of August.

The fall of the capital followed a weeks-long battle with pro-government militias from the town of Zintan.

Thani said the Zintan forces had also been placed under army command and joined regular units which aim to recapture the capital from Fajr Libya, which he branded as "outlaws" who had set up an "illegitimate" parallel government.

Four people were killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi east of the country after a suicide bomber blew up his car at a checkpoint operated by armed youths allied with government forces against Islamist militants, Agence France Presse reported.

The Benghazi Medical Center said it had received three bodies and the remains of the suicide bomber in addition to other that have been injured in the attack.

The attack targeted residents of the central Benghazi area of Boudhima, who had apparently set-up a roadblock at the entrance to their neighborhood.

Libya has been clouded in violence between Islamist militias and government forces in recent months. As a result of the unrest, Libya’s internationally recognized parliament was forced to relocate from the capital of Tripoli to the city of Tobruk.

The attack follows heavy clashes on Friday which killed at least 18 people in Benghazi.

Fighting between the Libyan National Army led by Haftar and Islamist militant of Ansar al-Sharia group raged in the country’s eastern city, 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.