* Militants, army forces fight in Benghazi
* More diplomats flee chaos
* Armed brigade vows to keep fighting for Tripoli airport
By Feras Bosalum and Ahmed Elumami
BENGHAZI, Libya, Aug 1 Two thousand people took
to the streets of Benghazi on Friday to protest against Islamist
militants and former rebel militias who have been fighting armed
forces and taken over an important military base in the eastern
The heavy clashes in Benghazi and the capital Tripoli over
the past two weeks have been the worst since the 2011 fall of
Muammar Gaddafi, killing more than 200 people and forcing most
Western governments to pull their diplomats out of the North
Fierce fighting among rival factions in the country's two
major cities also underscores Libya's fragile control over the
heavily armed brigades of former anti-Gaddafi rebel fighters and
militias who refuse to disband.
The Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, an alliance
formed by former rebels and Islamist militants from Ansar
al-Sharia, which Washington classifies as a terrorist
organisation, have forced the army to pull out of Benghazi.
Chanting slogans praising Libya's army and condemning
extremism, protesters marched in Benghazi, the city where in
2012 the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed
in an attack on the U.S. mission blamed on Islamist fighters.
"We are here to say Benghazi will not become another Mosul,"
said Seraj Byouk, a doctor, referring to the Iraqi city which
has fallen under the control of an al Qaeda splinter group.
The battle in Benghazi has pitted Islamist militants and
militias against special forces who have joined ranks with a
renegade former army officer, Khalifa Haftar, who had vowed to
oust militants from the city.
While Haftar initially gained support from some Libyans
weary of militant attacks and assassinations, he has failed to
make significant gains. Critics dismiss him as a power-hungry,
former Gaddafi ally.
There were no sign of the Libyan army, Haftar's forces or
Shura Council forces in the city on Friday, and only civilians
were controlling checkpoints and organising traffic, a Reuters
The city's main police station was destroyed by bombs placed
inside the building on Friday morning. The special forces base
was empty three days after it was overrun, and other parts of
the city were quiet.
Mediators including tribal leaders and elders have been
trying to negotiate separate ceasefire agreements to stop the
militia clashes that have turned the two biggest Libyan cities
Libya's new elected parliament is set to hold its first
session, in the town of Tobruk on Saturday. Libya's acting prime
minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, other ministers and around 100
members of parliament arrived in the eastern town on Friday.
Western governments, who have struggled to bring Libya's
warring factions together, hope the parliament, known as the
House of Representatives, will allow space for some form of
political agreement to emerge.
But armed factions have repeatedly invaded ministries, and
the last parliament, to make political demands on lawmakers,
whom many Libyans blame for the lack of progress in the
transition from Gaddafi's one-man rule.
MORE DIPLOMATS OUT, NO CEASEFIRE
Greece on Friday became the latest European government to
take its diplomats out of Libya after fierce street battles
closed the capital's international airport last month and
increased worries of Libya sliding into greater chaos.
Greece evacuated its embassy staff and more than 100 other
European and Chinese nationals from Libya early on Friday with a
navy frigate sailing back to the Greek port of Piraeus, its
Defence Ministry said.
That evacuation followed the United Nations, United States
and most European nations pulling out their embassy staff and
nationals from Libya, where the fragile government and fledging
army are no match for militia brigades.
In Tripoli, fighting has been mainly between two rival
brigades of former rebels tied to the towns of Misrata and
Zintan, who have fired Grad rockets and artillery shells across
southern Tripoli for two weeks in a battle to control the
"The military operations aim to put an end to armed outlaw
groups and bring back the state's control of all the Libyan
institutions," Mohamed Ghariani, a spokesman for the Misrata
forces trying to take back the airport from the Zintan brigades,
Both Zintan and Misrata brigades claim legitimacy as state
forces. They have stockpiles of Gaddafi-era weapons, and have
allied themselves with competing political factions in Libya.
(Additional reporting by Ayman Al-Warfalli; Writing by Aziz
El-Yaakoubi; Editing by Patrick Markey and Mohammad Zargham)