BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Ten Libyan soldiers were killed fighting Islamist groups in the war-torn city of Benghazi on Monday, medics and military officials said.
Five soldiers were killed and six wounded when they came under attack by Islamist fighters in one district of the eastern city, said Milad Zwai, spokesman for army special forces in the port city, Libya’s second-largest.
Five other soldiers were killed by a bomb apparently planted by Islamists in a flat they were clearing, medics and a military source said.
Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government have been fighting Islamist groups in the country’s second-largest city for over a year, part of a wider struggle since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.
Army forces backed by armed residents have regained some of the territory in Benghazi lost last year, but critics say their use of war planes and artillery has turned parts of Benghazi into rubble without gaining much on the ground.
“Special forces stopped a fierce attack,” Zwai said. “We used all available weapons including heavy guns.”
The Benghazi fighting highlights the chaos in Libya, where armed groups back two governments vying for control. The official prime minister has been based in the east since the capital, Tripoli, was seized by a rival group which set up its own government.
Both sides command loose coalitions of former anti-Gaddafi rebels. After Gaddafi’s ouster, the various factions split along political, regional and tribal lines.
Islamic State has exploited the chaos by taking over several towns, executing foreigners and launching attacks against embassies in Tripoli.
Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Leslie Adler