BENGHAZI: At least 28 people were killed and 60 were wounded on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) when demonstrators attacked the headquarters in Benghazi of former rebels who had fought to oust Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, a hospital official said.
“We have so far identified 28 people dead and some 60 injured,” a doctor at the Al-Jala hospital in the eastern city told Agence France-Presse, more than doubling an earlier toll.
Fighting erupted after dozens of demonstrators, some of them armed, tried to dislodge the powerful “Shield of Libya” brigade from its barracks in Benghazi, said an Agence France-Presse correspondent at the scene.
They encircled the headquarters and called on regular security forces to step in.
Libya’s post-Kadhafi authorities, who have still not managed to form a professional new army and police corps, often call on the “Shield of Libya” to intervene in the various tribal conflicts that trouble the country.
Adel Tarhuni, spokesman for the Shield of Libya group, said one member of the brigade had died and another seven were wounded.
Tarhuni also defended the “legitimacy” of the brigade, saying it officially came under the umbrella of the defense ministry.
He reported that a peaceful demonstration in front of the brigade’s headquarters had been infiltrated by armed aggressors.
The gunmen then opened fire on the Shield of Libya building and threw improvised explosives, Tarhuni told television station Libya Al-Ahrar.
Armed forces spokesman Colonel Ali al-Shikhi told Lana the brigade was “a reserve force of the Libyan army,” and that an attack on them was equivalent to an “attack on the legitimate authorities.”
Shikhi said that the incident was “very serious,” and called on restraint from all parties.
Overnight Saturday, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said that the Shield of Libya members had left their headquarters and that the regular army had taken over the location and had taken charge of the heavy weaponry it found there.
Speaking on national television, Zeidan announced the opening of an inquiry into the incident, calling for calm on all sides.