Africa

Rogue Libya general's forces bomb Islamist camp

  • 28 May 2014
  • From the section Africa
Khalifa Haftar leaves a news conference in Benghazi - 18 March 2011
Image caption General Khalifa Haftar says he is fighting "terrorism"

Libyan forces loyal to a renegade general have bombed government-funded Islamist militia in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Witnesses say aircraft targeted a base of the February 17th Brigade, one of the main armed groups in the area.

General Khalifa Haftar, a former army chief of staff under Col Muammar Gaddafi, has launched several recent attacks in Benghazi and Tripoli.

He accuses the government of supporting terrorism, which the authorities deny.

Gen Haftar's actions have been backed by an array of armed groups, including military forces in the east as well as some members of the air force.

The central government has called his assault an "attempted coup", but some government officials say they back the operation.

Legacy of violence

Libya is still in turmoil three years after the fall of Gaddafi - with political, religious and political factions locked in disagreement about the country's future.

There are almost daily assassinations, bombings and kidnappings.

Image caption Mohamed al-Zahawi says the attacks against his group are a "crusade"

Gaddafi's rule left Libya with few institutions, and in the absence of a fully functioning army and police, the government funds some armed groups to fulfil a security role in the country - including the February 17th Brigade.

The brigade is a powerful force known for its close ties to the hardline Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Ansar al-Sharia's commander Mohamed al-Zahawi described the military operations against his group and others in Benghazi as a "crusade".

He accused Gen Hafter of being backed by foreign powers, and warned the US against any intervention in Libya.

The state department in Washington is now urging US nationals to leave the country immediately because of Libya's political instability.