BENGHAZI, Libya (AA) – Twenty-five people were killed and several others wounded on Monday in clashes between troops loyal to retired general Khalifa Haftar and the self-styled Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council militia in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Ten council fighters were killed and several others wounded as a result of the clashes, a source close to the council told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.
An officer with Haftar’s army had earlier told AA that 11 troops loyal to the retired general were killed in the clashes. He returned, however, to say that death toll among Haftar’s troops had risen to 15.
Farag Milod said the clashes had erupted when the members of the militia tried to advance in large numbers toward a Benghazi civilian airport and an air force base.
He added that Haftar’s troops succeeded in foiling the attack, which aimed at occupying the airport and the air force base.
“The militia seems to have planned for this attack a few days ago,” Milod said, citing the intensity of the attack.
He denied reports that the militia had managed to control the airport or the air force base.
A leader of the Benghazi Revolutionaries’ Shura Council militia, meanwhile, said militia fighters had managed to enter the air force base and the airport for some time, but had to pull back quickly under aerial attacks by Haftar’s planes.
In May, Haftar declared war on armed Islamist militias based in eastern Libya, dubbing his campaign “Operation Dignity” – the stated aim of which was to “purge” Libya of “extremists.”
At the time, the government in Tripoli described Haftar’s campaign as a “coup attempt.” After serving as army chief-of-staff under Muammar Gaddafi, Haftar spent nearly two decades in the United States in exile before returning to Libya in 2011 to join the uprising against the autocratic ruler.
Since Gaddafi’s ouster and death, Libyan authorities have struggled to restore law and order, with many militias that had helped overthrow Gaddafi refusing to surrender their weapons.
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