Scores killed in Libyan violence

Benghazi crowd. AP Photo

At least 79 people were killed and 141 others wounded in fierce clashes in eastern Libya between armed groups loyal to a rogue ex-general and Islamist militias, a health ministry official told AFP Saturday.

Giving the latest toll of Friday’s unrest in Benghazi, the official, Abdallah al-Fitouri, said those wounded had been taken to five hospitals in the area. An earlier toll had 37 dead and 139 wounded.

Libya’s military banned flights Saturday over the eastern city of Benghazi, a day after troops loyal to Gen. Khalifa Hifter attacked the militias, authorities said.

The North African nation’s weak central government already described the offensive Friday by Hifter, which included military air support, as tantamount to a “coup.” And as militiamen reported a separate helicopter attack on one of their bases Saturday, the violence again showed how precarious government control remains after the 2011 civil war that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi.