Libya’s army chief of staff blamed a general for initiating an attack on militias in Benghazi yesterday that killed 36 people and injured more than 100, Al Jazeera reported.
Abdel-Salam Al Obeidi said Major General Khalifa Haftar was responsible for starting the attack on the militias, including the 17th February Brigade, in Libya’s second-largest city, the Doha-based broadcaster said. Benghazi airport was closed because of the violence.
Haftar’s attack wasn’t authorized by the army and the clashes will hinder efforts to restore law and order, the official Libyan Arab News Agency reported yesterday, citing acting Premier Abdullah Theni.
Libya’s government is struggling to restore control three years after an uprising lead to the overthrow of former leader Muammar Qaddafi. The unrest has curtailed the North African country’s oil production to about 200,000 barrels a day, according to National Oil Corp., the state-run oil company. The country was producing about 1.6 million barrels a day before Qaddafi’s downfall.
Libya’s Elephant oil field, the second-largest in the western part of the country, has been shut by protesters after it resumed operation last week, Mansour Abdullah, an official at Zawia refinery, said yesterday. The field can produce 140,000 barrels of oil a day.
Mohamed Hejazi, a spokesman for Haftar, told Al Jazeera that the battle will continue to clear Benghazi of “terrorists,” a reference to the Ansar al-Sharia group implicated in the killing of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in 2012.
Al Obeidi warned that the action could provide multinational forces an excuse to intervene in Libya, while Nouri Abu Sahmain, president of Libya’s parliament, in a statement said that those behind the attacks on militias seek to rule Libya “and return it to the slavery era.”
Military jets today struck a camp in Benghazi after a no-fly zone was imposed, al-Arabiya television reported.