By Noora Ibrahim.
Benghazi, 17 August 2014:
Fighting erupted in Benghazi’s Buatni district last night as Saiqa Special Forces pushed . . .[restrict]out from its only remaining stronghold in the city, Benina Airport.
One Buatni resident told the Libya Herald that she and some other remaining inhabitants in the area had abandoned their homes during the fighting after Operation Dignity forces asked them to leave for their own safety. She said that she did not expect to return, explaining that much of Buatni had been destroyed during clashes in recent months.
The Head of Saiqa Special Forces Investigations Unit, Fadel Al-Hassi who was on the ground during the fighting said ground forces had moved out from Benina through Gwarsha and into Buatni.
He said Saiqa had taken control of the airport road which had been held by Ansar Al-Sharia following a large offensive by the Islamists at the end of Ramadan. Ansar forces had, in recent weeks, been increasing their presence at a check point between Benina Airport, Hay Salam and their stronghold of Laithi, possibly with the intention of mounting an assault.
Hassi said there had been heavy clashes in Ard Bayera near a local milk bottling factory. He added that Ansar Al-Sharia had been firing shells indiscriminately into the area surrounding Buatni in efforts to repulse the attackers.
Air Force Brigadier-General Saqr Adam Geroushi, the commander of Operation Dignity’s airforces, said he could not give further information about the attack explaining that he wished to protect the aims of the operation. However, he did say that Dignity’s forces had taken up defensive positions around Benina and wherever possible were intent on sticking to the ceasefire in Benghazi stipulated by the House of Representatives ten days ago.
There has been in recent weeks an increasing rift between Operation Dignity and Saiqa Special Forces. A senior Dignity figure said, following the rout at Saiqa’s main Benghazi base last month, that the Special Forces were no longer fit for purpose.
Benghazi Special Forces Commander Wanis Bukhamada is now reported to be in Tobruk with his top lieutenants. Saiqa’s ground assault last night was not backed up by airforce attacks as has been usual during previous operations.