Tripoli, 2 October:
Members of the army and police have come under a string of attacks in Benghazi in the past few days in the midst of ongoing efforts to establish full control over the restive eastern city.
As many as six personnel are reported to have been injured, two in an attack on Gar Younis police station today and four in two separate attacks near the children’s hospital yesterday.
Conflicting reports have emerged of the assault yesterday, which took place after assailants threw a bomb at the police station from a Hyundai-type vehicle. Some sources have claimed two officers were injured, whilst others have said only parked police cars were hit.
Two military personnel were wounded in an explosion from a RPG shortly after midnight yesterday, one seriously. A police checkpoint was then attacked a few hours later in a reported grenade attack.
A senior member of the army’s newly created National Mobile Force has said that the grenade was thrown from within the grounds of the children’s hospital. The officer said the move was a calculated attempt by the assailant to avoid being shot, for fear of causing collateral damage. The man was subsequently arrested.
On Friday, a police station near to Benghazi’s Al-Jalaa hospital was attacked by an armed mob protesting against the disbanding of the Islamist Ansar Al-Sharia brigade, believed to have been involved in the fatal attack on the US consulate on 11 September.
Four police vehicles recently delivered from Dubai were machine-gunned and grenades thrown at the building by the assailants, two of whom were reported to be wearing suicide vests.
It is said that the men were not intending to blow themselves up, but wore the vests as an extreme insurance policy against getting shot, again for fear of collateral damage.
The National Mobile Force arrived on the scene within 40 minutes of the onset of the attack after the police failed to intervene.
A senior officer within the force, who requested to remain anonymous, denied reports that anyone had yet been arrested in connection with the incident, in which nobody was injured.
The previous day, however, a police officer was wounded when an unknown assailant dropped a grenade onto his vehicle from a bridge overhead.
The army and police have been struggling to assert their authority over Benghazi in the wake of a fatal assault on the US consulate and nearby safe house on 11 September, which left four people dead, including the US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
Several militias, including the Ansar Al-Sharia brigade, were disbanded in the wake of the incident, whilst others were placed under the full authority of the army.
However, security officers have complained that many members of the disbanded militias have simply taken their weapons and gone to ground. It is believed that some of them may have been involved in the recent attacks.