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The New Arab

Suicide bombing kills Haftar troops in contested Benghazi district

Fighting remains ongoing in the Ganfouda district of Benghazi [AFP]

Date of publication: 19 December, 2016

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At least seven Libyan National Army personnel were killed in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group on Sunday in Benghazi's contested Ganfouda district.

A suicide bomb attack in Benghazi targeting forces loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar left at least seven dead, and a further eight wounded on Sunday, according to medical and security officials.

The attack occurred in the Ganfouda district, one of the last remaining areas in the city where resistance to Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) is ongoing. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

All those killed in the attack were LNA personnel, according to a medical source from Benghazi’s main hospital who spoke to Reuters.

Haftar has carried out a military campaign in Benghazi for more than two years and has wrestled control of most of the city from Islamist militias, and other opponents.

LNA forces in the city have advanced on Ganfouda in recent days, with at least three LNA troops reportedly killed on Saturday.

Aid organisations have expressed concern that civilians in the area could become trapped in the crossfire as the battle intensifies. Around 120 families remain in the area, according to Ahmed al-Masmari, a spokesperson for the LNA. 

Speaking to The New Arab in October Mouna Elkekhia, a researcher with Amnesty International, said that both the LNA and Islamist militias stationed in Ganfouda had committed human rights abuses in Benghazi that in certain cases "amounted to war crimes".

"There have been cases of torture of civilians, abductions,” said Elkekhia, speaking at that time. 

Civilians trapped in the area are thought to include around 130 men who were abducted by the BRSC affiliated Ansar al-Sharia from the Budheima military prison in October 2014. Most stood accused of having fought with pro-Qaddadi forces. 

Earlier this week rumours circulated that Haftar had called on his forces to be prepared to march on Tripoli, the Libyan capital, following recent reports of gang-rape in the city raising concern of a face-off in the city between the LNA and the various military groups present there.

After the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011 during an uprising assisted by NATO, Libya descended into a civil war with rival governments established in Tripoli and Tobruk, and militias spreading throughout the country. 

Internal chaos also enabled IS to establish a foothold in the country.

Haftar, backs the Tobruk government which has received backing from neighbouring Egypt as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and rejects the authority of the UN-backed Government of National Accord based in Tripoli. 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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