By Noora Ibrahim and Seraj Essul.
Benghazi/Tripoli, 22 June 2014:
Libya Shield No.1 took control of Benghazi port today following yesterday’s . . .[restrict]violent clashes there with Saiqa Special Forces which left seven dead and 13 wounded.
Head of Security at the port Ali Elumami told the Libya Herald that Libya Shield had entered the premises on foot and without technical vehicles. He could not give specific numbers for the strength of the force. The reason for the presumed withdrawal of Saiqa Special Forces from the area remains unknown.
Eyewitnesses on the ground said a standoff between Saiqa Special Forces and Libya Shield was underway in downtown Benghazi today after Libya Shield occupied the docks. One said the Shield had barricaded themselves behind barriers made from shipping containers and that the whole of the city centre had been without power since yesterday. Many residents reportedly fled the area. Pockmarked buildings and four burnt-out police cars marked where the fighting had been.
“Today no one dared go there,” Elumami said. “There is, however, a chance that it [the port] will be returned to us if things go well,” he added.
Following an intervention by the Benghazi Crisis Committee, it appears that Libya Shield said it would return the port to the authorities. Arrangements for the handover have been made for tomorrow. “Neither side wants bloodshed,” Ali said.
A total of seven dead and 13 wounded have arrived at Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC) as a result of the clashes. The spokesman for BMC said Naval officer Yessir Elumami, Saiqa Rapid Response Unit member Omar Ali Wafali and the Head of Benghazi Joint Security Room’s (BJSR) Criminal Investigation Unit Wafi Mohammed Alabbar were among the dead. All three were transferred to BMC from Jalaa hospital during the course of the day. The identities of the remaining four men have not yet emerged.
With additional reporting from Ayman Amzein and Muttaz Ahmed.