By Libya Herald staff.
The death toll in fighting in Benghazi between the army’s Special Forces Saiqa Brigade and Ansar Al-Sharia is now put at nine, according to the Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Interior Minister, Sadiq Abdulrahman. He made the announcement on TV early this afternoon.
The situation in the city was reported early this afternoon to be calm with Ansar forces said to have disappeared. Saiqa appears to be in control of the streets.
The armed forces meanwhile have warned that any convoy moving inside Benghazi or trying to enter the city without a permission be will attacked by the airforce, according to Captain Ibrahim Shara, the new Benghazi Joint Security Room (BJSR) spokesman.
“As long as there is resistance on the ground, we will continue fighting to maintain security and legitimacy,” Shara told the Libya Herald. He added that there had been a meeting between the Benghazi Elders Council and BJSR commanders this morning at which the elders demanded that civilians be protected.
Planes have been flying over the city today, but there have been no reports of any strikes.
Reports that a convoy heading towards Benghazi from Sirte had been stopped at Wadi Al-Ahmar have been denied by Colonel Ali Sheikhi, spokesman for the Chief of Staff. There is an Ansar Al-Sharia camp outside Sirte.
There is still confusion as to the cause of the fighting. It appears to have started in Benghazi’s Birkah district after Ansar Al-Sharia set up checkpoints there. Some reports say that members of the Islamist militia then shot at a vehicle belonging to Benghazi Security Directorate. Others say that Saiqa intervened after a shootout at the checkpoint between a private individual and Ansar members.
Armed local Benghazi residents have been fighting alongside Saiqa against Ansar. Saiqa commander Wanis Bukhamada has, however, asked them to go home and leave the fighting to his forces. One local group is reported to have attacked Ansar’s headquarters in Ras Obeida district at about 8 am, setting it on fire. There was no one in the building at the time as Ansar forces were out on the streets.
All Ansar bases in the city are now reported to have been destroyed.
Dr Mohamed Belaid, the director of Al-Jalaa Hospital, close to the fighting and where many of the inured are being treated, told this newspaper that it had received seven killed and 23 wounded, three of whom were in a serious condition. he would not say who were Saiqa and who were Ansar members. He added that the hospital was short of medicines and had asked the Medicine Supplies Department to send supplies.
This morning, the hospital put out an appeal for blood. that the hospital’s team had been working very hard since the start of the clashes to treat the patients.
Meanwhile, Benghazi Congressman, Mohamed Busidra, an independent but close to the Justice & Construction Party, told this paper that Benghazi Congress members were travelling back to the city to monitor events. He added that Congress and the government had been in close contact since the start of the clashes.
He confirmed that the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chief of General Staff, Major-General Jaddallah Al-Obeidi, had flown to Benghazi.
“Our main object now is to stop bloodshed between the two sides”, Busidra said, added that a “neutral” force was now needed in Benghazi. He claimed that the Omar Mukhtar Brigade headed by Ziyad Balaam was such as a neutral force and that it had started setting up checkpoints at Benghazi’s main gates to prevent any convoys trying to enter the city.
This, however, has been denied by the BJSR spokesman.
The brigade is widely seen as Islamist and close to Ansar Al-Sharia.
Three of the dead have been named as Sulaiman Daqli, Saleh Abdel-Salam and Ahmed Magrisi. No casualties have been reported by Ansar Al-Sharia.
With input from Aymen Amzein and Noora Ibrahim in Benghazi and Ahmed Elumami, Aimen Eljali and Seraj Essul in Tripoli.