BENGHAZI: Seven Libyan soldiers were killed and 50 wounded in a double suicide bombing and clashes in the eastern city of Benghazi on Thursday, an army commander said.
Libya is being racked by violence as the armed groups which helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 turn their guns on each other in a struggle to dominate politics and the country's vast oil resources.
In Benghazi, special army forces allied to brigades of former general Khalifa Haftar have been fighting Islamist brigades including Ansar al-Sharia, blamed by Washington for an attack on the US consulate in September 2012 in which the US ambassador was killed.
Two cars loaded with explosives drove into an army checkpoint near Benghazi's civilian and military airport, killing three soldiers, Wanis Bukhamada, commander of army special forces in Benghazi, told Reuters.
Four soldiers were killed in clashes with militants in the same area, he said.
“The Majlis al-Shoura forces suffered big losses,” Bukhamada said, referring to a group of militants which has been trying to take the airport for weeks.
The militants have already overrun army bases in the port city, making the airport one of the last large government bases.
The clashes were continuing at noon (1000 GMT), while air strikes could be heard. No more details were immediately available but Haftar's forces have used helicopters and war planes against the militants.
Western powers worry Libya will become a failed state as a weak central government cannot control the competing armed groups in a country awash with arms.
The elected parliament has relocated to the remote eastern city of Tobruk after effectively losing control of the capital Tripoli, where an alliance of armed groups rules after expelling a rival force.
The new forces controlling Tripoli, led by brigades from the western city of Misrata, have helped install an alternative parliament and prime minister.