At least 12 killed in Benghazi as Haftar's forces launch fresh attacks
Fresh fighting in Benghazi on Sunday left at least 12 people dead and 16 wounded, as rogue general Khalifa Haftar continued his offensive to purge Libya of “terrorists”.
Haftar’s forces used tanks and rocket launchers to mount attacks against several areas populated by local militia groups. War planes were heard circulating the city and dozens of families fled to avoid the violence, according to the AFP.
State news agency LANA said 12 people were killed and 16 injured, quoting unnamed medical sources, although local daily Libya Herald is said to have put the number of casualties at 50.
Much of eastern Libya was plunged into darkness on Sunday evening, after rockets hit a power station near the Benghazi airport, according to the state electricity firm. Five soldiers and three civilians were killed in the fighting, according to hospital workers who spoke to the Reuters news agency.
Mohamed el-Hejazi, spokesperson for Haftar, told local media that his forces had detained five leaders of armed groups, although this has not been independently verified.
On Sunday evening a local committee was convened where those present urged dialogue to bring an end to the crisis.
Rogue general Khalifa Haftar launched “Operation Dignity” in May, attacking Benghazi and killing at least 79 people, which he claims is aimed at ridding the country of “terrorists”. The government has labelled him an outlaw and accused of him of attempting a coup.
He was the alleged target of a botched assassination attempt earlier this month, when an attack on his farm outside Benghazi killed three and caused minor injuries to the former army general. Spokesperson Hejazi had previously announced the arrest of several suspects and on Sunday Haftar accused Qatar of being behind the attack.
“It’s proven that a state was behind this action, it’s the state of Qatar,” he told Al Arabiya’s sister channel al-Hadath on Sunday. “Qatar has been targeting us from the first day we arrived in this country,” he added.
Haftar said Qatar “supports the militias in Libya” and has hampered attempts to build a national army and police force in the North African country.
He provided no evidence to back up his claims of Qatari involvement in his assassination attempt, or their alleged support for militia groups.
At the news conference held outside Benghazi Haftar said new Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is “the right man for the job” and described the Muslim Brotherhood as an “international spy network”.
The accusations made against Qatar come against a backdrop of deepening divisions among Gulf States, who have taken sharply different approaches to their regional foreign policy. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors from Doha in March, partly in protest at their perceived support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Qatar provided billions of dollars in aid to the Muslim Brotherhood led government in Egypt, which was ousted from power in a military coup last July. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have since given more than $20 bn of financial support to the military backed authorities.