Saturday, June 15, 2013

Benghazi clashes kill 6 soldiers amid warnings of imminent ‘bloodbath’

    Saturday, June 15, 2013   No comments

Libyan Special Forces fought with armed protesters in Benghazi in clashes that killed six soldiers, officials report. The flashpoint city has been hit by a wave of bloody protests recently demanding the disbandment of militia groups.

Violence erupted during Friday night and continued into the morning with witness reports of explosions and heavy gunfire throughout the city.

"The clashes lasted from 2am (00:00 GMT) until 6am, but are over now," Colonel Mohammed Sharif, of the Special Forces in Benghazi, told Reuters. The six soldiers were killed in clashes with armed protesters outside a military base in the city.

Prior to the clashes a group of enraged protesters stormed a former militia base on Friday evening, ejecting a brigade of rebel fighters. Officials say the demonstrators also torched two military vehicles in the process.

Tensions have been escalating in Benghazi between the population and the various militia groups left behind after they aided in the ouster of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011. Last week, at least 31 people were killed in clashes after members of the militia group, the Libyan Shield Brigade opened fire on protesters demonstrating outside their base.

The army's Thunderbolt Special Forces brigade arrived to impose order, but was sucked into the violence.

"The Libya Shield don't follow orders, we don't even know whose orders they follow," said Thunderbolt Brigade lieutenant Said Alari to The Guardian.

Following the unrest, the Libyan interim government ordered the seizure of four Islamist militia bases around Benghazi. However, very few believe the militia will willingly disband.



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