Fighting flares in Benghazi

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IOL pic may19 libya general Reuters General Khalifa Haftar attends a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, a small town to the east of Benghazi, on May 17, 2014. File picture: Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Benghazi, Libya - Clashes between irregular forces of a renegade general and Islamists erupted in Libya's eastern Benghazi city on Wednesday, killing at least five people, medical and military sources said.

Loud explosions and a war plane circling the port city could be heard in the evening in the Lithi district, where forces of renegade general Khalifa Haftar and Islamist brigades such as the Ansar al-Sharia were fighting.

Several families packed up to escape the fighting, which lasted for hours, residents said.

Both sides had battled already during the day in a suburb, during which five men from Haftar's units were killed and 16 wounded, a medic said.

Benghazi, home to several oil companies, has plunged into anarchy since Haftar declared war on Islamists using war planes and other anti-aircraft guns. Despite this, Islamists earlier this month overran the main army camp which Haftar has been trying to retake together with regular army forces.

Libya's neighbours and Western powers worry the oil producer will turn into a failed state as the weak central government is unable to rein in former rebels who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now vie for control.

The capital Tripoli has turned into a battlefield since last month when a brigade from Misrata attacked fighters from Zintan, also located in the west, to expel them from the capital. - Reuters

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