Libya's Benghazi death toll hits 400 in six weeks

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

Published Sunday, November 30, 2014

About 400 people have been killed in six weeks of heavy fighting between Libyan pro-government forces and Islamist groups in Libya's second-largest city Benghazi, medical staff said on Saturday.

"The death toll has risen to 400," a source at a Benghazi hospital said, declining to be identified for security reasons.

Medics at other hospitals in the city confirmed the estimated death toll.

Backed by forces led by former Libyan army general Khalifa Haftar, the newly formed and internationally recognized government army launched in mid-October an offensive against Islamists in Benghazi, expelling them from the airport area and from several camps the army had lost during the summer.

In the past three weeks the fighting has centered around Benghazi's commercial port where pro-government forces say Islamists are holed up. The port has had to close, disrupting food supplies in the eastern city.

Haftar's spokesman Mohammed al-Hijazi said his forces had surrounded the Islamists in the port area. "All types of weapons including aircraft supporting the infantry are being used to deal with them," he said.

Libya has been grappling with a sharply deteriorating security since a NATO-backed uprising toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In the three years since, rival militias have clashed in Libya's main cities, including capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.

The political divisions have yielded two rival seats of government in the country, each of which has its own institutions.

Vying for legislative authority are the newly-elected House of Representatives, the internationally recognized government headed by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, which convenes in Tobruk, and the Islamist administration, which continues to convene in Tripoli.

Western powers and Libya's neighbors fear the conflict is dragging the major oil producer towards civil war.

Haftar's forces have planes from Libya's outdated air force though his opponents say he is backed by Egypt which is worried about the spread of militants. Haftar denies this.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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