Two weeks of clashes between rival Libyan militias battling for control of Tripoli’s international airport have left more than 97 people dead and 400 wounded, the health ministry said Sunday.
The ministry’s toll was based on casualty reports from eight public hospitals in the capital and its suburbs, and did not include those taken to medical facilities outside the city.
The airport has been closed since July 13 because of the deadly clashes. At least 38 of the 97, mostly soldiers, were killed in 24 hours of fierce fighting between the Libyan army and Islamists in the eastern city of Benghazi.
A military source said the clashes broke out on Saturday when Islamist groups launched an assault on the headquarters of a special forces unit near the city centre, causing casualties among forces defending their barracks.
Benghazi’s main hospital said the bodies of 28 soldiers had been taken there in the past 24 hours, along with 50 injured, while Al-Marj hospital, 100 kilometres to the east, spoke of two soldiers dead and 10 injured.
A spokesman for the self-proclaimed Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, an alliance of Islamic and jihadist militia who have claimed a number of attacks on military bases in the area, announced that eight of its fighters had died.
The latest bloodshed came a day after the US evacuated its embassy in Tripoli due to fears for the safety of staff and as Britain joined the Americans in advising its citizens against travel to strife-torn Libya.
London has also urged all those Britons currently in the country to leave, although its embassy in Tripoli remains open.