By Noora Ibrahim
Benghazi, 25 August 2014:
A Saiqa Special Forces officer has been killed and seven Operation Dignity members wounded . . .[restrict]in fighting in Benghazi with reports of at least nine members of Ansar Al-Sharia also killed.
Head of Saiqa Special Forces Investigations Unit Fadel Al-Hassi identified the dead man as Al-Mijrisi.
The names of the wounded individuals have not been released with the exception of Hassi’s own brother, Nasr Faraj Al-Hassi, an Air Force officer who was wounded yesterday by mortar fire in Sidi Mansour. He has been taken to Marj Hospital where he is said to be in a stable condition.
A spokesperson at Jalaa Hospital told the Libya Herald that four of the Operation Dignity wounded had arrived there but had been transferred to Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC). At BMC doctors said a total of nine dead from Ansar Al-Sharia had been brought in but that the body of prominent Islamist Mohammed Abu Azzah was not among them.
Azzah, an Algerian and a leading figure within Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed fighting alongside Ansar Al-Sharia on Saturday. The head of Operation Dignity’s air forces Saqr Adam Geroushi confirmed the death but said Ansar had retained Azzah’s body. He added that there have been increasing reports of foreign fighters fighting alongside Ansar Al-Sharia and its allies.
Hassi also said three rocket propelled grenades, fired by Ansar, had hit Labraq Airport but without causing any casualties or material losses. He explained that Ansar had fired at the airport, one of the last to remain open in the whole of the country, from their southern stronghold at the port of Ras Hilal. In the past, Operation Dignity has claimed that Ansar uses the port for gun-running.
Benina Airport and its approach, including the nearby district of Buatni, have continued to witness the worst of the fighting in Benghazi over the last two days. The majority of residents in the area have nonetheless left their homes following weeks of clashes during which Saiqa Special Forces’ main base in Benghazi was overrun by Ansar. Ansar was said to be building up for an assault on the airport itself before being pushed back last week from Benina by Saiqa.
The airport and the nearby Air Defence Brigade’s camp remain among the last positions in the area held by forces loyal to Operation Dignity.
Operation Dignity has carried out bombings on a number of locations in the city, Hassi said, including Gwarsha, a Islamist stronghold. The attacks by Dignity’s Airforces have become almost common-place with regular airstrikes on Islamist positions since the beginning of the campaign.