Two suicide car bombings near an eastern airport in Libya killed seven troops and wounded 12 people on Thursday, a spokesman for a renegade general said, as fierce clashes erupted nearby between the general’s forces and the extremist militias trying to take over the airfield.
Col Mohammed Hegazi told The Associated Press that the bombers targeted checkpoints 1 kilometre away from the Benina airport in Benghazi.
The airport is the only site still under the control of renegade Gen Khalifa Hifter after he was defeated by a coalition of Islamist militias, including the extremist group Ansar al-Shariah. That group is blamed for the deadly September 12, 2012, assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Hegazi said that the Hifter-allied Libyan air force later launched airstrikes to prevent the Islamist militias from taking over the airport.
A spokesman of the February 17 brigade, part of the Islamist coalition, told Libyan television station al-Nabaa that nearly 10 of its fighters were wounded in clashes near the airport.
Mohammed Eissa also said the airstrikes had no effect on their advance as clashes continued.
Benghazi fell under the control of the Islamist militias months ago after they repelled attacks by Hifter.
Libya is witnessing its worst spasm of violence since its 2011 civil war.
A second, parallel campaign by Islamist-allied militias swept through the capital, Tripoli, forcing rival militias, who declared their alliance with Hifter, to withdraw.
The militias later revived an old parliament and formed a “salvation government” to compete with Libya’s elected parliament and government, which is now convening in the eastern city of Tobruk, close to the Egyptian border.