Two Libyan soldiers were killed and 10 wounded on Thursday when eastern government forces made a new push against Islamist fighters in the embattled centre of Benghazi, medics said.
Forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognised government have been fighting Islamist groups in the country’s second-largest city for over a year, part of a wider struggle since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.
Army forces backed by armed residents have regained some of the territory in the eastern city lost last year, but critics say their use of war planes has heavily damaged Benghazi without gaining much on the ground.
On Thursday, the government forces made a new attempt towards taking the commercial port where Islamist groups have positions, military officials said. The port has been closed since last autumn.
“The air force bombed terrorist targets in Sabri,” said Nasser al-Hassi, a spokesman for the force, referring to a seaside central district near the port.
The Benghazi fighting highlights the chaos in Libya, where armed groups back two governments vying for control. The official prime minister has been based in the east since the capital, Tripoli, was seized by a rival group that set up its own government.
Both sides command loose coalitions of former anti-Gaddafi rebels. After Gaddafi’s ouster, the various factions split along political, regional and tribal lines.
Islamic State has exploited the chaos by taking over several towns, executing foreigners and launching attacks against embassies in Tripoli.