The growing Libyan unrest saw a protracted gunbattle overnight in a residential area of Benghazi, where forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s pro-coup faction fought with Ansar al-Sharia militants.
Local officials estimated “at least 18 dead,” but that they had no idea yet how many of the casualties were combatants and how many were civilians, with each side accusing the other of firing into homes.
Gen. Hifter, who launched a coup d’etat two weeks ago, has promised to “cleanse” the entire nation of Islamist factions, and over the weekend launched air strikes against Benghazi, with one round of attacks hitting a university near Ansar al-Sharia’s local headquarters.
Hifter has emphasized moves against Ansar al-Sharia in recent days, but his coup has primarily focused on political Islamist factions in Tripoli, with the militant faction seemingly included to give his operation some thin veneer of “anti-terror” legitimacy.
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