Benghazi, Reuters—A car laden with explosives killed two people, as well as the driver, and wounded around 20 in Libya’s second biggest city, Benghazi on Friday, medics and military officials said.
The car exploded as it was being driven towards an army tank base and ammunitions store, military officials told a Reuters reporter at the scene. They said the vehicle had apparently exploded earlier than intended as it had not yet reached the base.
A man and a child were killed. “It was a suicide bomber,” said Fadel Al-Hassi, a senior army special forces commander.
The explosion happened in the Lithi neighborhood where pro-government forces have been fighting Islamist groups for months. On Thursday, the two sides battled over control of the port district.
The port, the main gateway for food imports into eastern Libya, has had to close.
On Thursday morning, army vehicles advanced on the Corniche road towards the port gate and a nearby court building. Soldiers took over several government buildings such as a passport office, a state insurance and a state bank damaged in earlier fighting.
Around 25 soldiers were wounded, army sources said.
“The road to the port is under our control,” said Faraj al-Barassi, a military commander.
Heavy gunfire continued until late at night. The court is famous as the place where the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi started with peaceful protests against his jailing of many opponents.
The fighting in the eastern city mirrors a wider struggle across the oil-producing North African state where two governments and parliaments, allied to rival armed groups, are vying for control four years after Muammar Gaddafi fell to an armed uprising.
Backed by forces led by General Khalifa Haftar, army special forces in mid-October launched an offensive against Islamists in Benghazi, expelling them from the airport area and from several camps the army had lost during the summer.
Army forces in eastern Libya are loyal to internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thani, who was forced to leave the capital Tripoli in the west in August for the eastern city of Bayda when a group called Libyan Dawn seized the capital.
The new rulers in Tripoli set up their own government and parliament, but these have not been recognized by the United Nations.