June 5, 2014 / 6:24 PM / 4 years ago

Libyan premier visits Benghazi after wave of fighting

BENGHAZI Libya (Reuters) - Libya’s outgoing premier Abdullah al-Thinni traveled on Thursday to the eastern city of Benghazi, hit by heavy fighting between irregular forces and Islamists for the last three weeks.

Public life in the port city, a base for oil firms, has largely come to a standstill since renegade general Khalifa Haftar declared war on the Islamist militias, saying the government had failed to tackle them. Tripoli has denounced Haftar as trying to stage a coup.

More than 100 people have been killed in almost daily clashes, sometimes involving helicopters or warplanes and hitting residential districts. Universities have been mostly closed and many residents have been hiding indoors.

With a no-fly zone in place, Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and several ministers had to fly to Abraq airport 200 km (120 miles) east of Benghazi and travel from there by car.

“We came to Benghazi to support the city’s residents, special forces and security forces,” Thinni told Reuters during the visit. “We know what the special forces need in terms of weapons and ammunition.”

He said wounded people would be sent abroad for treatment. Local hospitals have asked for blood donations because of the large number of casualties.

Libya is threatened with chaos, as government and parliament are unable to control militias, armed tribesmen and Islamists who helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but now defy state authority.

The country currently has two prime ministers. Last month parliament voted into office Ahmed Maiteeq in an election disputed by some lawmakers and officials. Thinni has refused to hand over power until courts review the election process.

Reporting by Ayman al-Warfalli and Feras Bosalum; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Andrew Roche

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