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Libyan forces battle militants in Benghazi

Benghazi, July 29 (Reuters): Libyan forces today battled Islamist militants with rockets and warplanes for control of an army base in the eastern city of Benghazi after at least 30 people were killed in overnight fighting.

Intense fighting in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, and battles between rival militias in the capital Tripoli have pushed Libya deeper into chaos after two weeks of the fiercest violence since the 2011 civil war ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

Foreign states followed the US and the UN in pulling diplomats out of the North African oil-producing state after clashes between two rival brigades of former anti-Gaddafi fighters closed Tripoli’s international airport.

A rocket hit a fuel depot near Tripoli airport two days ago, igniting a huge blaze that Libyan fire-fighters today were fighting to put out. Italy’s government and Italian oil group ENI had agreed to help them, the government said.

Three years after Gaddafi's fall, the Opec nation has failed to control ex-rebel militias who refuse to disband and who are threatening the unity of the country. The extent of recent hostilities has increased western worries that Libya is sliding towards becoming a failed state and may once again go to war.

In Benghazi, battles have intensified since special forces and regular air force units joined ranks with a renegade army general, Khalifa Haftar, who launched a campaign against Islamist militants entrenched in the city, the home of the revolution against Gaddafi’s more than 40-year rule.

India mission boost

India has rushed additional officials from North African and West Asian countries to its mission in Tripoli for assisting in the evacuation of nearly 6,000 nationals in Libya, adds our special correspondent.

Extra officials will also be deputed to the Indian embassy in Tunisia, which shares a border with Libya.

The decisions were taken at a meeting foreign minister Sushma Swaraj held today with senior officials at the foreign office.

The extra deployment of officials comes at a time several other nations are pulling out all diplomatic staff from the country.

 
 
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