Libya Islamists unleash another offensive on Benghazi airport
BENGHAZI - Islamist fighters launched another offensive Wednesday on the airport in Libya's Benghazi, the final redoubt in the eastern city of an ex-general who has been waging war on them, an AFP correspondent said.
The fighters of the Shura Revolutionary Council, which includes the Islamist Ansar al-Sharia group, have been trying since early September to capture the facility, which houses both civilian and military airfields.
Oil-rich Libya slid into chaos after Moamer Kadhafi was toppled in a NATO-backed uprising three years ago, with interim authorities confronting powerful militias that fought to oust the veteran dictator.
On Wednesday, the AFP correspondent in Benghazi said heavy artillery fire could be heard since dawn in the southern suburb of Benina, where the airport is located.
Nine soldiers from a special forces unit loyal to renegade former general Khalifa Haftar have been killed and another 30 wounded in the fighting over the past three days, according to one of their commanders.
In May, Haftar launched a campaign to wipe out Islamists in Libya.
There has been almost daily fighting between his forces and the militias, which now control nearly all of Benghazi, Libya's second city and the cradle of the 2011 uprising.
Meanwhile, a senior militia commander and former MP has been killed in fighting with rival militias west of the capital Tripoli, one of his comrades and a medical source said.
Mohamed al-Kilani was slain while commanding elements of the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) alliance in clashes Tuesday with fighters accused of being loyal to Kadhafi in the suburb of Warshefana, said the leader of the allied Shield Brigade.
Another source, from Kilani's hometown of Zawiyah, said he had been killed in an ambush along with three companions as they were returning to Tripoli.
A hospital source in Zawiyah confirmed receiving Kilani's body, along with three others.
Kilani had served in the previous parliament as a member of the Wafa bloc, accused by its rivals of backing radical Islamists in Libya.
Fajr Libya rejects the legitimacy of the new parliament, elected in June, and of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, who moved to the far eastern town of Tobruk in August for security reasons.
Its fighters, a powerful presence in the capital, called the same month for the reinstatement of the outgoing General National Congress.
The assembly tasked pro-Islamist Omar al-Hassi to form a parallel government, which is not recognised by the international community.