Islamists, pro-govt forces clash in Benghazi, 16 killed

Troops led by former general Khalifa Haftar have been fighting to oust Islamist groups in the eastern coastal city since October

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Clashes on Monday between pro-government forces and Islamist militiamen in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi killed 16 people and wounded dozens, security sources and medics said.

Forces loyal to former general Khalifa Haftar and to internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani have been battling for weeks against Islamists who have taken control of much of Libya’s second city, and the capital Tripoli.

The Benghazi Medical Centre said it received the bodies of seven people and 35 wounded in the clashes, while Al-Jala hospital said it took in four bodies and 25 wounded.

Medical sources said the casualties were all from Haftar’s ranks and pro-government forces.

Islamist militias rarely report their casualties.

The fighting raged in southern and central Benghazi, security sources said.

Farther east, in the Islamist stronghold of Derna, five soldiers were killed on Monday when gunmen attacked a checkpoint in the city’s western suburb of Dahr el-Ahmar, a military spokesman said.

Earlier this month the Islamists staged a military parade in Derna with tanks and combatants carrying black flags.

Three years after dictator Muammar Qaddafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed revolt, Libya is awash with weapons and powerful militias, and run by rival governments and parliaments.