Libya clashes kill 31 in Benghazi
Published Sunday, June 9, 2013
Clashes in Libya's second city of Benghazi between former rebels and anti-militia demonstrators killed at least 31 people and wounded more than 100, the LANA news agency said on Sunday.
It cited a statement from al-Jala hospital in the eastern city – cradle of the revolution that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafiin 2011 – as giving the new toll from Saturday's clashes, up from 28 dead.
"Three people succumbed to their wounds on Sunday morning, taking the toll from the fighting to 31 dead," the agency said.
LANA had also earlier reported nearly 60 people wounded when demonstrators attacked the headquarters in Benghazi of ex-rebels who had fought to oust Gaddafi.
The fighting erupted after dozens of demonstrators, some of them armed, tried to dislodge the powerful "Shield of Libya" brigade from its barracks, an AFP correspondent at the scene on Saturday said.
They encircled the headquarters and called on regular security forces to step in, saying they wanted rid of armed militias in the city.
"Shield of Libya" spokesman Adel Tarhuni defended the brigade's legitimacy, saying it officially came under the umbrella of the defense ministry.
He reported that a peaceful demonstration outside the brigade's headquarters had been infiltrated by armed aggressors. Gunmen then opened fire on the building and threw improvised explosives, Tarhuni told Libya's al-Ahrar television channel.
Benghazi has been rocked by several bombings and attacks against security services, highlighting the inability of the authorities to restore effective security.
The post-Gaddafi authorities, who have still not formed a professional new army and police service, often call on groups such as "Shield of Libya" to intervene in tribal conflicts.
Overnight, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said the militiamen had left their headquarters and that the regular army had moved in and taken charge of heavy weaponry found there.
Speaking on national television, Zeidan announced an inquiry into the incident, and appealed for calm.
The authorities in the North African nation have failed to disarm and dissolve the former rebel groups, while also seeking to legitimize some of them despite widespread opposition.
Benghazi in particular has seen regular attacks on symbols of authority including police stations.
Attacks there have been blamed on radical Islamists, like the one last September 11 against the US consulate that killed four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens.
The following month, residents of the city managed to force other militias from their bases.