Tripoli - The death toll from clashes in Benghazi has risen to 43 with more than 100 people wounded, a Health Ministry official said on Saturday, as a renegade retired general vowed to continue to fight Islamist militants in the eastern Libyan port. Friday’s violence prompted Libya’s prime minister to order the regular military to control any armed groups in the city where militants often clash with the army, and assassinations and bombings are common. The latest fighting broke out between irregular Islamist militants and the military forces of the self-declared Libyan National Army, led by retired General Khalifa Haftar. Residents said Haftar’s forces had attacked Ansar al-Sharia and another Islamist militant group which roam unchallenged in Benghazi. They said the city was quiet on Saturday.
“There is no set timeframe. We will continue until Libya has got rid of them,” Haftar’s spokesman said, referring to the Islamist militants. Medical workers said the death toll from Friday’s fighting could rise higher. “More bodies are coming in from areas outside Benghazi,” said a hospital worker. Since the 2011 civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi after 42 years of one-man rule, Libya has been unable to impose authority over brigades of former rebels who refuse to disarm and have carved out regional fiefdoms. Benghazi, the cradle of the NATO-backed uprising against Gaddafi, in particular has struggled to curb violence and stem attacks blamed on Ansar al-Sharia, which often operates openly despite being designated a terrorist organisation by Washington.