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Air strikes target Islamist strongholds in Benghazi after morning of fierce clashes

After six hours of heavy fighting across Benghazi between members of Operation Dignity and Ansar Al-Sharia-affiliated militias, air strikes started targeting 17 February Brigade this morning.

“They started bombing the [Islamist-affiliated] 17 February Brigade at 8.30 am,” a resident in the Fuwayhat district told the Libya Herald. “We were relieved to hear the sound of the jets because there was heavy fighting all around my house from three this morning.” He said that members of 17 February Brigade responded with anti-aircraft fire.

“Even if it is a very big battle today and we lose a lot of people it is okay, so long as we can end this,” he said. His family had been terrified by the proximity of the fighting this morning, and everybody in the city was exhausted by months of violence, he said. “We just want to live a normal and peaceful life again.”

The clashes had been expected following Operation Dignity’s call for an uprising in the city against Ansar today, 15 October.

The heaviest this morning were reported in Fuwayhat district, where 204 Tank Brigade started fighting against 17 February Brigade. “We were shocked when they started fighting because 204 Tank Brigade has not previously declared support for Operation Dignity,” another local resident said. He added that a range of heavy weaponry was being used, including rockets and anti-aircraft guns.

It is thought this could have been prompted by a suicide bomb attack on the gate of the 204 Tank Brigade, which reportedly left three dead and more injured.

Reports of damage to properties during the fighting have been coming in although the extent of the damage is not yet clear. A restaurant called Kudu in Dubai street – apparently frequented by members of Ansar Al-Sharia – was reportedly the scene of an explosion this morning and a number of Benghazi streets, among them Beirut Street and Shara Ashreen have been closed.

There are also reports of fighting in Leithi district, an Ansar stronghold.

Ansar was reported yesterday to be moving forces into the city ahead of the expected assault.

Article by Noora Ibrahim, Libya Herald.

This article was originally published here.

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