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Clashes in Libya's second city Benghazi kill 13

22 February 2016, 14:23

Benghazi - Five members of security forces loyal to the internationally recognised Libyan authorities and eight fighters from rival groups were killed Sunday in clashes in Benghazi, the LANA news agency said.

They were killed a day after 14 members of the security forces died trying to retake a district in Libya's second city held by rival groups.

"Five soldiers were killed in an operation aimed at repelling terrorist groups in western Benghazi, as well as eight fighters belonging to these movements," said the agency which is close to the recognised authorities.

The oil-rich North African country has had rival administrations since the summer of 2014 when the recognised government fled Tripoli after a militia alliance including Islamists overran the capital.

Citing a military source, LANA said that despite losing 19 men in two days, loyalist forces managed to seize Al-Marayseh port in western Benghazi and Al-Hawari hospital in the south.

"Orders were given to the soldiers to continue their advance and not to stop until they have successfully overcome the terrorist groups in Benghazi" in an operation dubbed "The Blood of Martyrs", the source said.

For a year and a half, Benghazi has seen bloody fighting between armed groups including IS and Ansar al-Sharia, which is close to Al-Qaeda, and forces loyal to the government.

LANA, citing a medical source, also said seven people were killed in Ajdabiya (190 kilometres, 120 miles southwest of Benghazi) in two days of fighting between loyalist forces and rival groups.

The country has been gripped by chaos and security problems since its 2011 uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with a multitude of armed factions battling for territory and control of its oil wealth.

The violence has allowed the jihadist Islamic State group to establish a foothold, and IS now controls the coastal city of Sirte and its surroundings.

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