By Noora Ibrahim and Adam Ali.
Benghazi, 31 October 2014:
The Libyan National Army (LNA) has made gains in Benghazi . . .[restrict]in areas lost in fighting in August. Meanwhile, Islamist supporters of Ansar Al-Sharia have begun leaving their homes.
Head of Saiqa Special Forces Investigations Unit Fadel Al-Hassi told the Libya Herald that Saiqa had returned to its old positions for the first time today after being forced to abandon them three months ago.
He said Saiqa had retained control of its 21 Battalion camp and had retaken the 2nd March camp in the Masekin area. Hassi said Wanis Bukhamada, the Commander of Saiqa, had returned to Benghazi to lead his men after remaining in Tobruk for the last three months. “Victory is near” he said.
The head of the Saiqa Special Forces Investigations Unit said large quantities of ammunition held by the forces of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC) had been taken by pro-government forces as they pacify the areas they have overrun. Islamist units have not been out on the streets in force as they had been earlier in the week, he explained.
In reaction to the gains made by the LNA, residents in Benghazi have reported that supporters of Islamist militias and the militiamen themselves have begun leaving. Those fleeing the city appear to be members or supporters of Ansar Al-Sharia and 17 February Brigade.
There has been a widespread campaign to root-out BRSC supporters where they live. Fighting in Benghazi over the last 16 days has seen local people joining the LNA and attacking known Islamists and their sympathisers.
The worst of the conflict over the last two days has been in Buatni, Hawari, Garyounis, Ras Abeida and Sabri. In Hawari the LNA has been attacking Ansar’s base at Mashrua Sasfa.
BRSC forces have reportedly taken up positions in a school in Laithi where they are firing mortars at targets across the centre of the city. Hey Dollar Bohdema and 20 Street have suffered direct hits with some missiles falling on the 2 March compound in Masekin and at 204 and 21 Brigade camps.
Medical staff at Marj Hospital have said that 17 members of the LNA were killed in clashes yesterday and 40 injured. Numbers for casualties within the BRSC are never disclosed although their dead and wounded are believed to be taken to Derna by sea.