BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - At least two people were killed when missiles fired at a Libyan special forces army base missed their target and struck family homes in the eastern city of Benghazi, residents and officials said on Saturday.
The attacks on Friday night followed a week of on-and-off clashes in Benghazi and Tripoli between irregular forces loyal to a renegade former Libyan general demanding the parliament step down, and rival militias opposing his campaign.
Libya’s government has been unable to control brigades of ex-fighters who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed 2011 uprising and have since emerged as heavily armed rivals who often challenge the legitimacy of the state.
It was not clear who fired the rockets at the special forces base in Benghazi. But the city is home to the Islamist militants who have been targeted by forces loyal to retired General Khalifa Haftar.
Residents and army officials said two family members were killed and their children injured when one rocket struck a house and another family was injured in a second strike aimed at a special forces base that has sided with Haftar.
“It is not the first time the special forces base and the Benina air base have been targeted since General Haftar announced his operation and the special forces decided to join him,” said an army official.
Western governments worry Haftar’s call for army units to join his campaign will split the nascent military and trigger wider turmoil in the oil-producing country where brigades of former rebels are the real powerbrokers.
Haftar has said government and parliament had lost any legitimacy because they were unable to purge the OPEC producer of extremists. Several army units and some government officials have backed him.
But other powerful militia groups have rejected Haftar’s campaign, setting up a possible standoff between the groups in the North African OPEC member.
Haftar, a former Gaddafi ally who split with the autocrat in the 1980s, is the latest player to emerge in Libya’s network of former fighters vying for control over parts of the country.
Many Libyans are frustrated with the government and parliament’s failure to contain Islamist fighters and militias and ease the country into democratic transition three years after the war ousted Gaddafi.
Reporting by Aymen al-Warfalli and Ahmed Elumami; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Sophie Hares