On-again, off-again Libyan General Khalifa Hifter’s self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, which is distinct from the actual, real Libyan Army, attacked multiple militia targets in Benghazi today belonging to Ansar al-Sharia.
The attacks started with shelling against the compounds but quickly escalated into gunbattles in the streets, with 43 dead by the end of the day, and hundreds wounded.
Gen. Hifter’s “Libyan National Army” has some pretense of legitimacy, since he has at various points been appointed to roles within the post-Ghadafi government. Where he stands after rumors of his involvement in a February coup attempt is unclear, however, and the fighters amount to little more than an irregular militia themselves, with no real affiliation to the military.
Hifter defected from Ghadafi’s forces in the late 1980s, after the Libya-Chad War. He lived in the United States for most of the time since then, and is alleged to have CIA ties. He returned to Libya as the “leader” of the rebellion in 2011, though again his actual ties to the anti-Ghadafi forces was often ill-defined.
Libya’s actual army was also deployed to Benghazi to try to stop the fighting, and was ordered to intercept any fighters trying to enter Benghazi from either side to join the fighting.