Benghazi - Libya's
army clashed with Islamist militants in the eastern city of Benghazi early on
Wednesday as part of a crackdown on fighters who have controlled parts of the
oil-producing country since it overthrew ruler Muammar Gaddafi two years ago.
powers, worried about Libya's growing militia anarchy, have promised more aid
to the army to curb former fighters and militants who fought to oust Gaddafi
but have since challenged the OPEC country's government.
broke out on Monday between army special forces and members of militant group
Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, killing at least nine people before the Islamists
retreated from their main base.
battles could be heard in three parts of the port city in the early hours of
Wednesday, though the clashes appeared to be much smaller than on Monday.
when members of Ansar al-Sharia threw a grenade at a patrol of special forces,
a security official said, though he later retracted this and said it was not
clear who was behind the attack.
security official said one person had been wounded.
militants, including some from Ansar al-Sharia, had been seen massing outside Benghazi,
where the army was rushing reinforcements in a convoy, residents said. But the
militants later left the area and calm returned to the city.
al-Sharia was blamed for an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi in September
2012 when the US ambassador and three other Americans were killed.
situation in Libya's second biggest city has sharply deteriorated in the past
few months. Islamists run their own checkpoints, and assassinations and
bombings happen daily.
The chaos in
Libya is worrying its North African neighbours and the Nato powers that backed
the uprising which led to the fall of Gaddafi in one of the Arab Spring
anger is also growing against the militiamen and former fighters, and Prime
Minister Ali Zeidan's fragile government hopes to use that discontent to wrest
back control from armed groups.
co-opt former fighters, the government hired militia groups to provide
security. But they remain loyal to their commanders or tribes, and often clash
in disputes over territory or personal feuds.
are down to a fraction of capacity due to seizures of oilfields and ports by
militias, tribesmen and civil servants demanding more political rights or