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ISIS fights rival group and eastern forces in Libya - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Libyan troops loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a retired general and former chief of staff for Muammar Gaddafi, sit on an armored personnel carrier (APC) during a demonstration calling on the international community to arm the Libyan army on August 14, 2015 in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. (AFP PHOTO / ABDULLAH DOMA)

Libyan troops loyal to Khalifa Haftar, a retired general and former chief of staff for Muammar Gaddafi, sit on an armored personnel carrier (APC) during a demonstration calling on the international community to arm the Libyan army on August 14, 2015 in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. (AFP PHOTO / ABDULLAH DOMA)

Benghazi and Cairo, Reuters/Asharq Al-Awsat—At least 46 people have been killed in clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a rival Islamist group and forces loyal to the official government in two Libyan cities, residents and medics said on Friday.

The fighting typifies the chaos in the oil-producing country, where two governments, former rebels and Islamist groups are battling for control, four years after the ousting of veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

In the main eastern city, Benghazi, ISIS attacked forces loyal to the official government. They killed nine soldiers and destroyed a tank and three military vehicles, residents and medics said.

Seven soldiers were also wounded in the attack in the central area near the commercial port, closed for more than a year because of the fighting. A warplane could be heard later, as government forces brought in reinforcements.

In Sirte, a central city about 300 miles (500 kilometers) east of the capital Tripoli, ISIS fought with a rival Salafist Muslim group and armed residents who have been trying to expel it.

“Sirte has been in a real state of war since last Tuesday,” a local official told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday.

“Violent battles between militants from the city and ISIS have not stopped since, amid exchange of shelling and air raids,” he added.

ISIS fighters took over the city in February, expanding their presence in the North African country by exploiting a security vacuum, as they did in Iraq and Syria.

Dozens have been killed and injured, the official said, adding that “due to the intensity of the battles we could not count the victims.”

Fighting raged until early on Friday before dying down when ISIS took back a district which the Salafists and armed residents had tried to seize, residents said.

Through the day the city was quiet, giving residents the chance to remove bodies strewn in the streets, among them women and children. Around 37 people have been killed in the past two days, residents said.

“Families are leaving Sirte,” said a resident, asking, like others, not to be named. He said ISIS fighters were searching for people with weapons.

A similar battle occurred in the eastern city of Derna in June when ISIS was expelled by rival Islamist fighters who teamed up with locals angered by the arrival of foreign militants and clerics.

ISIS launched an offensive to retake Derna this week.

Libya has two governments fighting each other for power, while ISIS and other armed groups carve out their own fiefdoms.

The United Nations brought the main warring factions together in Geneva this week but the diplomacy has been overtaken by fighting between groups not present at the negotiating table.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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