By Maha Sulaiman.
Benghazi, 20 February 2016:
Fourteen people, almost all of them soldiers were killed today in Benghazi including a Saiqa special forces . . .[restrict]commander as the Libya National Army (LNA) launched a new city-wide operation to try and finally destroy Ansar Al-Sharia and the so-called Islamic State (IS).
Another 32 were injured, again mostly LNA soldiers
Figures for militant casualties are unknown.
The fighting, which started at around 7 am this morning, is continuing and is on several fronts, a senior LNA officer told the Libya Herald, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Talking to the media is now strictly forbidden for the LNA.
These, he said, included Leithi, Buatni, Suq Al-Hout, Hawari and Garyounis, although much of today’s fighting was in Buatni. Large numbers of troops were also seen in Berses gate in the north east of the city, coming from Marj.
This evening the army was claiming advances, but has not divulged where.
Asked why undertake an operation now on so many fronts, the officer said that the LNA had been preparing for the offensive for some while and was now ready.
He also denied reports that a number of French troops were based at Benina airbase. “It’s not true,” he said. “We are fighting by ourselves.”
There have been no air attacks, however – possibly to avoid friendly fire incidents. [/restrict]