Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Libya militias seize Benghazi special forces base

A special forces base in the Libyan city of Benghazi has been seized by militias, fighters and officials say.
The site was captured by Islamist-led militias after days of fighting in the eastern city, officials said.

Meanwhile, Italy has offered to help extinguish a huge blaze that has engulfed the biggest fuel depot in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

Libya has been gripped by instability since the 2011 uprising, with swathes of the country controlled by militias.

“We have withdrawn from the [Benghazi] army base after heavy shelling,” Special Forces officer Fadel al-Hassi told reporters on Tuesday.

The fighters also confirmed in a statement that they had taken control of the base.

On Monday, officials said that at least 38 people had been killed in clashes between troops loyal to the Libyan government and Islamist fighters in Benghazi.

At least 97 people have also been killed in fighting between rival militias battling for control of Tripoli’s main airport in the past week.

The government has blamed clashes between the armed groups for starting the fire at the Tripoli fuel depot, and preventing firefighters from putting out the blaze.

The depot is about 10km (six miles) from Tripoli on the road to the international airport.

The government has been unable to disarm the numerous armed groups controlling large parts of the country, which are behind Libya’s worst violence since the 2011 uprising that toppled Col Muammar Gaddafi.

It has led some Western governments to urge their nationals to leave and withdraw foreign staff from their embassies in Tripoli.

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