Libya: Islamic militias declare control of Benghazi

July 31, 2014 | By | Reply More

July 31, – Islamic hard-line militias claimed to have taken control of Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, after defeating army units, taking over military barracks and seizing tanks, rockets and hundreds of boxes of ammunition, as fighting in the capital prompted a wave of evacuations Thursday by foreign nationals, diplomats and Libyans.

hromedia Libya Islamic militias declare control of Benghazi intl. news2The extent of the militias’ control over Benghazi was not clear. On Thursday, the city’s streets were nearly empty, with residents staying indoors and shops closed — but with also no sign of checkpoints by either militiamen or security forces. The main police headquarters was still smoldering after it was hit by militia shelling a day earlier, and smoke rose from the barracks of the Special Forces, once the strongest security body in the city until it was overrun by militiamen.

The militia victories in the city are part of a powerful backlash by Islamist forces in Libya after setbacks earlier this year. In Tripoli, Islamist-led militias have been battling for weeks with rival fighters in an attempt to seize the international airport in the capital’s worst fighting since the 2011 civil war that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

Spain announced it was pulling its ambassador and most embassy staff out of Tripoli, a step already taken by the United States. China has chartered a Greek vessel to evacuate hundreds of Chinese citizens, and the Philippines is working to get out some 13,00 Filipino workers inside Libya.

By noon on Thursday, more than 10,000 Libyans fled by land across the border into neighboring Tunisia over the previous 12 hours, Tunisia’s state news agency reported. They joined thousands of other Libyans who have already streamed into Tunisia in recent days.

In the capital, residents said there were shortages of fuel and gasoline, and food prices had leaped. “All of this is caused by political parties that are fighting for power, for government positions and money,” said Abdelfattah Alghanai, a man shopping for vegetables.

The militiamen’s sweep through Benghazi was a heavy reversal for Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a renegade general who for months had led army units and other fighters in a self-declared campaign aimed at stamping out armed Islamic militant groups.

After forces loyal to him lost their bases inside Benghazi the past days, Hifter’s loyalists now appeared to only hold the airport on the city’s edges.

The armed groups that overran Benghazi belong to a newly-formed umbrella group called Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, made up of multiple armed factions led by Islamic extremist commanders. Among the factions is Ansar al-Shariah, the group accused by the United States of leading a Sept. 11, 2012 attack on a diplomatic facility in the city that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

“We are the only force on the ground in Benghazi,” a commander of one of the coalition’s factions told The Associated Press on Thursday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. He said the coalition’s fighters had driven all army forces and fighters loyal to Hifter out the city.

In a video put out by Thursday by Ansar al-Shariah, its commander Mohammed al-Zahawi congratulates his followers on “this victory and conquest.” He was shown standing in front of a tank inside the base of the Special Forces. Another militia commander, Wissam bin Hamid, was also shown in the camp in the video, proclaiming in front of his masked fighters, “We will not stop until we establish the rule of God.” The video conformed with the AP’s reporting from the city.

Press journalist for HRO media – Khizer Hayat reports.

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Category: International

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