Africa

Libyan soldiers killed in Benghazi bombings and clashes

Smoke billows from buildings during clashes between Libyan security forces and armed Islamist groups in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi on 23 August 2014 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Benghazi was the cradle of the 2011 uprising but has since been a focal point for fighting

At least 29 Libyan soldiers have been killed in two car bombings and clashes in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Some 60 troops were wounded in the violence near Benghazi airport, medics and military sources say.

Libya has seen fierce fighting between rival militias that helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

In Benghazi, special army forces allied to former general Khalifa Haftar have been battling armed Islamist groups who control most of the city.

Thursday's bombings targeted a checkpoint near the city's Benina airport, which has been shut down since May.

The Islamist militias have already overrun army bases in the area, making the airport one of the last sites still under the control of Gen Haftar.

The forces are part of Benghazi's Shura Revolutionary Council, a body set up after they took control of Benghazi in August.

Military sources told the Associated Press that Haftar-allied forces launched air strikes in a bid to stop the militants taking over the airport on Thursday.

Gen Haftar was previously head of the Libyan army under Gaddafi before he was sacked in 1987.

He joined the anti-Gaddafi uprising in 2011, and earlier this year launched a campaign against what he says are hardline groups in Benghazi.

Hundreds of people are believed to have died in a recent upsurge of unrest in Libya, while thousands have fled their homes to escape the violence.

Human Rights Watch says more than 250 people have been killed in Benghazi and Derna alone this year.

More than three years after Gaddafi was overthrown and killed, Libya's police and army remain weak in comparison with the militias, who control large parts of the country.

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