BENGHAZI Libya - At least 12 Libyan soldiers were killed and 45 wounded on Friday in fresh clashes with Islamist militants near the airport of the eastern city of Benghazi, a medic said.
Special army forces allied to brigades of former general Khalifa Haftar have been fighting Islamist brigades there, including Ansar al-Sharia, accused by Washington of killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya in 2012.
On Thursday, Islamist groups launched a new offensive to seize the city’s military and civilian airport, the last government bases in the port city, amid the chaos gripping the oil producer three years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi.
The Islamists have already overrun several army bases in Benghazi.
A hospital medic said 12 soldiers were killed and 45 wounded. On Thursday 29 soldiers had already died, according to medics.
Mohamed El Hejazi, a spokesman for Haftar, said the Islamist offensive on the Benina airport located outside the city had been stopped with the help of war planes and helicopters.
“They tried taking the airport, but we won’t allow this,” he said.
The city was quiet by Friday evening, residents said.
Western powers are concerned that Libya will become a failed state as a weak central government cannot control competing militia who helped oust Gaddafi but now use their weapons to dominate politics or a share of the country’s vast energy resources.
The elected parliament has relocated to the remote eastern city of Tobruk after effectively losing control of the capital Tripoli, where an alliance of armed groups hold sway.
The new forces controlling Tripoli, led by brigades from the western city of Misrata, have helped install an alternative parliament and prime minister.
Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli, writing by Ulf Laessing, editing by Gunna Dickson