Libyan army, militias clash in Benghazi

At least nine people are killed and dozens injured as country struggles to curb armed groups

A member of the Libyan army fires at fighters from the armed group Ansar al-Sharia during a clash in the Ras Obeida area of Benghazi on Nov. 25, 2013.
Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters

Clashes between Libyan troops and an armed group in the eastern city of Benghazi have killed at least nine people and wounded at least 47 during a military operation, the Interior Ministry said.

The Libyan army on Monday declared a state of alert in Benghazi and summoned all troops to report for duty after a battle with Ansar al-Sharia fighters erupted.

Gunfire and explosions could be heard and thick smoke rose from the Ras Obeida area of the city. The army ordered residents to stay off the streets, witnesses told the AFP news agency.

Fighting broke out when an army special forces unit chased a suspect into an area where Ansar al-Sharia operates its own checkpoints, city security officials said. the group was blamed for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi a year ago when Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Rival militia groups withdrew from Tripoli last week after clashes killed more than 40 people when protesters marched to one of the fighters' bases to demand they leave the capital.

Militia defiance

The clashes came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague met in London with Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who was briefly abducted in Tripoli last month by Ansar al-Sharia.

Kerry said after the meeting that the U.S. and Britain would continue to support Libya, after weeks of violence in the country.

"The prime minister informed us of a transformation that he believes is beginning to take place and could take place because the people of Libya have spoken out and pushed back against the militias," Kerry said.

"So this is a moment of opportunity where there's a great deal of economic challenge, there's a great deal of security challenge."

The government has hired some of Libya's armed groups to provide security, but they remain loyal to their commanders or tribes and often clash in disputes over territory or personal feuds.

The Libyan government has struggled to restore order as fighters, most of whom were among the rebels who fought in the war that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, have defied the new military's attempts to disarm them.

Wire services

Related News


Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter



Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter