Libya declares no fly zone as 43 killed in Benghazi clashes

The government said 43 people were killed and 139 wounded in the clashes. A precarious calm reigned in the port city on Saturday.



By (AFP)

Published: Mon 19 May 2014, 1:26 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:33 AM

The Libyan army imposed a no fly zone over Benghazi on Saturday in a direct challenge to a retired general who has been using airpower to press a campaign against militants there.

Khalifa Haftar, who lived in exile in the United States before returning home to lead ground forces in the 2011 Nato-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, heads what he calls a “National Army”.

On Friday his paramilitary force, backed by warplanes and helicopters, pounded militiamen in Libya’s second city and fought pitched battles with the ex-rebels.

The government said 43 people were killed and 139 wounded in the clashes. A precarious calm reigned in the port city on Saturday.

Prime Minister Abdullah Al Thani denounced Haftar’s forces as “outlaws” and called on all parties to observe restraint.

But Haftar vowed to press his war against Islamists, blamed for attacks that have killed dozens of members of the security forces, judges and foreigners since the end of the uprising in October 2011.

“The operation will continue until Benghazi is purged of terrorists,” he told Libya Awalan television.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Abdessalam Hadallah Al Salihin has denied any army involvement in the clashes, although he admitted that some officers and army units had defected to join Haftar.


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