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Libya fighting leaves almost 50 dead in 10 days

Health officials say around 48 people have been killed and 80 wounded in the past 10 days.

FILE: Smoke fills the sky after fighting between rival Libyan militias. The groups have been fighting since mid-July. Picture: EPA.

BENGHAZI - Almost 50 people have been killed in the past 10 days in fighting between Libyan pro-government forces and Islamist groups in the second-largest city, Benghazi, medical personnel said on Wednesday.

That brings the death toll to around 450 since army special forces and troops led by former general Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive against Islamists in Benghazi, expelling them from the airport area and from several camps the army had lost during the summer.

Around 48 people have been killed and 80 wounded in the past 10 days, hospital staff said, asking not to be named.

Two soldiers were killed on Wednesday, they said.

Banks and shops have re-opened in some districts where fighting has ended, but the conflict appears to be stalemated at the city's port.

Although Haftar's forces have been bombing the area for weeks, pro-government forces say Islamists are still holed up in the area.

Haftar's spokesman, Mohamed El Hejazi, who also speaks for the army in eastern Libya, said reinforcements were coming from the eastern cities of Tobruk and Ajdabiya to help pro-government forces in Benghazi.

The fighting in Benghazi is part of wider turmoil in the North African country.

Two governments, each with its own parliament and army, are vying for legitimacy, three years after the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi.

In August, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and his cabinet were forced to leave Tripoli for the east when a group called Libya Dawn seized the capital. The new rulers set up their own government, which has not been recognised by the United Nations and world powers.

The situation has been complicated by the Benghazi fighting, where Haftar has merged his force with the army under a mandate from the elected parliament, which is allied to Thinni.

Haftar's forces have planes from Libya's outdated air force, though his opponents say he is backed by Egypt, which is worried about the spread of militants. He denies this.

LIBYA'S RECOGNISED PM'S TO SEIZE TRIPOLI

Libya's recognised government will continue a military campaign to claim back the capital Tripoli, Thinni said on Wednesday.

Libya is divided between two governments since a group called Libya Dawn seized Tripoli in August after a month-long battle with a rival group, setting up its own parliament and government.

Prime Minister Thinni has been forced to work from the East where the elected House of Representatives is also based, part of turmoil three years after the ousting of Gaddafi.

Thinni told Dubai-based TV channel al-Arabiya his forces were advancing on Tripoli from the west and would also seize the main border crossing to Tunisia.

"Our troops are moving towards Tripoli to liberate it," he said, claiming his forces had seized a town west of the capital. Thinni's forces, allied to a former general and tribesmen in Zintan in the western mountains, have launched air strikes on Tripoli.

The rival Tripoli government, accused by its opponents of relying on Islamists, says Egypt and the United Arab Emirates help Thinni with the air strikes.

Thinni has denied this but said in the television interview: "Our brothers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and our brothers in Egypt are ready to fulfill what the government and House of Representatives demand."

On Monday, UN Special Envoy Bernadino Leon said he planned to launch next week a new round of peace talks to bring together both conflict parties.

Leon said talks would this time also include the rival parliament based in Tripoli to widen a dialogue which has failed to make progress.