Benghazi, 15 June 2013:
Six members of the army’s Special Forces (the Saiqa Brigade) as well as a civilian were killed in Benghazi this morning in fighting with gunmen said to be members of the Libya Shield First Batallion (Deraa 1). It was expelled by the army from its base in Benghazi last Saturday following protests by pro-federalists which led to the deaths of 31 people when fighting broke out. Among the dead were members of the Special Forces which was sent in to take over the base.
This latest fighting started last night when the gunmen, dressed in civilian clothes but wearing masks and having first gathered in the parking lot opposite the Italian Consulate, moved to a checkpoint in Sidi Hussein manned by members of the First Infantry Brigade and burned two of their vehicles. They sprayed “No to federalism” on a nearby wall.
They then went to the Infantry Brigade’s base in Birkah district and, according to one report, attacked it with gelatina bombs but at this point no guns were fired. The Infantry Brigade withdrew, allowing the gunmen to take over the premises.
The gunmen then went to the police headquarters on the Airport Road and set it on fire. They subsequently moved to Saiqa’s headquarters on the same road and attacked it. Heavy gunfire and explosions could be heard around 4am.
Skirmishes then took place in the city’s Leithi district shortly after dawn around the Infantry Brigade’s other base to which members had withdrawn when they quit the Birkah one. The gunmen pursued them there. But Saiqa troops came in to help the Infantry and pursue the gunmen. According to reports, the skirmishes spread into surrounding streets.
Three Saiqa brigade members killed at their headquarters have been named as Mohamed Al-Mahdi Al-Arabi, Kassim Mabrouk Salim and Mohamed Illafi.
The Ministry of Defence has put out a statement saying that any attack against an army unit base is tantamount to an attack on the Libyan state and that those involved will be dealt with by force.
It is reported in Benghazi that members of the public have gone to the police headquarters and formed a human wall to protect it. [/restrict]