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Clashes in Libya Kill 31               09/02 06:18

   CAIRO (AP) -- Fierce clashes in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi between 
Islamist militiamen and rival forces loyal to a renegade general have killed 31 
fighters on both sides, a security official said Tuesday.

   The fighting erupted late on Monday, with forces and fighter jets belonging 
to Gen. Khalifa Hifter pounding positions of Islamist militias called The 
Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council, said the official.

   The hours-long clashes concentrated around the city's Benina airport and the 
militiamen responded with artillery, added the official, speaking on condition 
of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

   Hifter's side lost 20 fighters while the militiamen had 11 killed, and 36 
fighters in all were wounded, the official said. Several of the wounded were 
reported to be in critical condition.

   Libya is witnessing its worst spasm of violence since former dictator 
Moammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed in 2011.

   The country's divisions are deeply rooted in rivalries between Islamists and 
non-Islamists, as well as powerful tribal and regional allegiances between 
groups who quickly filled the power vacuum after Gadhafi's ouster. Successive 
transitional governments have failed to control the militias.

   Fighting in recent months has mostly engulfed the capital, Tripoli, and also 
Benghazi, the country's second-largest city.

   The militias in control of the capital, operating under an umbrella group 
called the Dawn of Libya, have also taken control of the U.S. embassy compound, 
a week after they drove out rival militias. A State Department official said 
the compound "remains secure."

   On Tuesday, Libya's official news agency said calm returned to Tripoli, with 
some banks resuming work and shops and bakeries reopening. Traffic also picked 
up in the capital and there were long lines outside gas stations. Some families 
who fled the fighting areas have returned to their homes, the agency said.

   In a second chance on Monday, Libya's newly elected parliament asked the 
country's prime minister who resigned last week, Abdullah al-Thinni, to form a 
new government. Al-Thinni had said after his resignation that his government 
had lost control of almost all state institutions and government offices to 
armed Islamist militias.


(KA)


 
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