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Libyan militants seize Benghazi Special Forces’ base; 30 killed
30-07-2014

BENGHAZI (Libya): Militant fighters overran a Libyan Special Forces base near the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday after a battle involving rockets and warplanes that killed at least 30 people.

A Special Forces officer said they had to abandon their main camp southeast of Benghazi after coming under sustained attack from a coalition of Islamist fighters and former rebel militias in the city. “We have withdrawn from the army base after heavy shelling,” Saiqa Special Forces officer Fadel Al-Hassi said.

A separate Special Forces spokesman confirmed the militants had taken over the camp after the troops pulled out. Part of the area is Camp 36 in the Bu Attni district and the Special Forces school.

Intense fighting in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, and battles between rival militias in the capital Tripoli have pushed the nation deeper into chaos after two weeks of the fiercest violence since the civil war which ousted Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Benghazi has been at the centre of fighting between Special Forces and ex-rebel fighters of the Benghazi Shura Council who have joined up with the Ansar al Sharia, a militant Islamist group, residents said.

Ansar al Sharia, classified as a terrorist organisation by Washington, has been blamed by authorities for attacking the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012 when the U.S. ambassador was killed.

Special Forces and some regular air force units had recently joined forces with a renegade former army general, Khalifa Haftar, who had launched a self-declared campaign to clear the city of Islamist militants. A government MiG warplane crashed during Tuesday's fighting in Benghazi.

Since clashes erupted two weeks ago, foreign states followed the United States and the United Nations in pulling diplomats out of the North African oil-producing state. Fighting in Tripoli between two rival brigades of former anti-Gaddafi rebels closed the capital's international airport.

A rocket hit a fuel depot near Tripoli airport two days ago, igniting a huge blaze that fire-fighters were still trying to put out. Italy's government and Italian oil group ENI had agreed to help them, the government said.