World Bulletin/News Desk
Forces loyal to former army chief Khalifa Haftar and armed pro-army demonstrators on Wednesday seized the headquarters of a rival military unit in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, a local military official has said.
"Pro-Haftar forces, supported by protesters taking part in the armed October 15 uprising, managed to seize control of the February 17 Brigade's camp in Benghazi," the official, who asked not to be named, told Anadolu Agency.
Eyewitnesses said pro-Haftar forces had seized the camp – which is located in western Benghazi's Garyounis district – following fierce clashes, during which they had used aircraft and tanks.
Clashes were reported in several other parts of the city on Wednesday after pro-army activists in Benghazi announced the launch of an "armed uprising" against "extremist groups" in the flashpoint city.
Eyewitnesses said four people had been killed and several others injured in clashes between armed protesters and gunmen linked to the Ansar al-Sharia militia.
A soldier was also killed – and four others injured – in a bombing that struck a military camp in southern Benghazi, witnesses added.
Over the past 24 hours, young residents from different parts of Benghazi – clad in police and army uniforms – have staged rallies to show support for the planned armed rallies.
Libya's army command, backed by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, has supported calls for armed demonstrations, according to televised statements on Tuesday by army spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari.
The pro-Haftar camp had already thrown its support behind the planned protests.
In a statement posted on Facebook, pro-Haftar forces urged pro-army activists to "secure their neighborhoods" with a view to preventing them from being used by Islamist militants as bases from which to attack army troops.
Libya has been dogged by political instability since Muammar Gaddafi's ouster and death in 2011, with several militias who helped overthrow the strongman holding onto their weapons.
Libya's second city, Benghazi has recently turned into a battlefield between troops loyal to Haftar and the Ansar al-Sharia and allied militias.
Earlier this year, Haftar declared war on militias based in eastern Libya, vowing to "purge" the country of "extremists."
After serving as Gaddafi's military chief-of-staff, Haftar spent nearly two decades in exile in the U.S. before returning to Libya in 2011 to join the uprising against the autocratic ruler.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Ekim 2014, 16:57