Benghazi/Tripoli — Heavy fighting broke out across Benghazi early Friday (May 2nd) between Saiqa Special Forces and Ansar Al-Sharia, Libya Herald reported.
At least eight Libyan security officers were killed and 24 wounded, AFP reported. At least four other troops were missing as of press time.
The battle reportedly erupted when the radical Islamist militia stormed the Benghazi security headquarters in the pre-dawn hours. The gunmen were trying to seize a vehicle packed with weapons and ammunition that the police had taken from them, a security source said.
The Friday clashes with Ansar al-Sharia came just three days after a suicide bomber attacked the Libyan army's Saiqa Special Forces 21 Battalion. At least two soldiers were killed and a number of others injured in the early morning bomb blast.
"Islamist groups and Ansar al-Sharia are behind these bombings and after the target because of the activities of Saiqa to secure Benghazi these days," said Colonel Salim Nayli, the commander of 21 Battalion.
Nayli, also known as Arafeet, said the situation required "a serious pause and to confront these groups".
"The series of suicide bombers in Benghazi has begun. The first toll was two dead in the ranks of Saiqa and it is possible that the number of victims increases," 34-year-old engineer Mohamed Tariq told Magharebia.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani met with the Benghazi Joint Security Room, headed by Colonel Abdullah Al-Saiti, on April 28th. The meeting addressed the situation in the city and the obstacles faced in the implementation of the security plan.
"The issues discussed were the activation of courts and public prosecution offices in the city," Colonel Hassan al-Aqori explained. "The Benghazi Joint Security Room will receive moral and materiel support and will follow up on all matters and developments taking place in the city."
Ayman Elourfi, a 27-year-old vendor in the al-Kuwayfiyah area, said, "Unidentified persons blew up on Tuesday morning three shops in al-Kuwayfiyah area on the outskirts of Benghazi. Thank God the explosions caused no injuries and resulted in material losses only."
Insecurity extends to Tripoli
The Benghazi bloodshed came as the central government in Tripoli faced its own crisis.
Gunmen stormed the General National Congress (GNC) on April 29th after an argument with an armed group that did not accept the loss of Mohamed Boukar in the first round of voting for the new prime minister.
The shooting forced Congress to put off the vote for a new premier until May 4th.
GNC spokesman Omar Humidan said that no congressmen were injured in the attack. He said an altercation took place between the Presidential Guard and an armed group favouring Boukar, who lost in the first round of voting. This group was led by Ayman Abu Shahma and was described by Humidan as "thugs".
"We heard shooting and then some members of congress left the meeting hall in Ghabat Nasr (Rixos)," Libyan MP Hassan Ansari said. "When we asked about it we were told it was an attack on the congress. So we stayed in session to assess the legal situation and the adjournment of the meeting. Yet once members left, quorum was lost and so the session was adjourned."
Ansari added that when he wanted to get out of the meeting hall he found the glass of the outer gate of the building smashed, saying he heard one member of the presidential guard was injured.
Asked about the unresponsiveness of the Presidential Guard, Ansari said, "The members of the Presidential Guard have not received their salaries for a long time, maybe three months. One of the guards died and did not get proper recognition."
"Every time something at the national level matures, some individuals or groups try to change decisions by force or by pressuring members of parliament by imposing their will on them," the congressman said.