The militia Ansar al-Sharia, blamed for much of the violence in Libya’s second city Benghazi since the fall of the Qaddafi regime in 2011, has left its headquarters after clashes with Army Special Forces that killed nine people.
The army’s Saiqa Brigade took control of the streets on Monday, warning that any convoy moving inside Benghazi or trying to enter the city without permission be will attacked by the air force.
“As long as there is resistance on the ground, we will continue fighting to maintain security and legitimacy,” Captain Ibrahim Shara said. He added that commander had met the Benghazi Elders Council, who demanded that civilians be protected.
A Government source said Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and other leading members of the Cabinet travelled to Benghazi for emergency talks with local security heads.
The fighting apparently started in Benghazi’s Birkah district after Ansar Al-Sharia set up checkpoints, with claims that members of the Islamist militia shot at a vehicle belonging to the Benghazi Security Directorate. Others say that the Saiqa Brigade intervened after a shootout at the checkpoint between a private individual and Ansar members.
Armed Benghazi residents fought alongside the Special Forces against Ansar, before they were asked to go home and leave the fighting to the army.
All Ansar bases in the city have reportedly been destroyed.
The militia’s units were reportedly prevented from leaving the town of Derna to join the fighting in Benghazi, following a failed attempt to assassinate a local judge and an RPG attack on the gates of the port.