Libya declares Benghazi no-fly zone

By Moataz al-Majbari, Saturday, May 17, 2014

The army threatened to

The army threatened to "target" any warplane that violates the no-fly zone

BENGHAZI – The Libyan army declared on Saturday a no-fly zone over the city of Benghazi and its outskirts until further notice.

In a statement, the chief of staff threatened that army forces and its affiliated militias will "target" any violating warplane.

This came after aircraft from Benina airbase participated in an attack mounted Friday by forces loyal to former Libyan army commander Khalifa Haftar againt army-affiliated militias in Benghazi, leaving 46 people killed and 136 injured on both sides.

Haftar's irregular forces had engaged in deadly fighting with the Rafallah al-Sahati Brigade, which was absorbed into the Libyan army following the 2011 ouster and death of late leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Haftar's forces recently launched a campaign in Benghazi dubbed "Libya's Dignity," the stated aim of which is to "purge" the province of "rogue militias."

Although the Rafallah al-Sahati militia was absorbed into the Libyan army, Benghazi residents continue to accuse its members of backing armed extremist groups.

In February, Haftar – who played a key role in the 2011 uprising – prompted fears of a military coup when he appeared on television in military uniform to demand the dissolution of Libya's parliament and interim government.

He had also claimed his forces had seized control of several military and strategic sites around the country.

The Libyan army at the time quickly refuted Haftar's claims, affirming that it remained in full control of all army barracks and military units throughout the country.

Libyan authorities have struggled to restore law and order since Gaddafi's ouster and death in 2011 amid the continued refusal of armed militias – which helped overthrow the late leader – to give up their weapons.

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