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Libyan militias capture Benghazi in surge of violence

BENGHAZI, Libya — Islamic hard-line militias, including the group accused by the United States in a 2012 attack that killed an ambassador and three other Americans, claimed control of Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, after overrunning army barracks and seizing heavy weapons.

The sweep in the eastern city is part of a new backlash by hard-liners against their rivals before the seating of a new parliament. In the capital, Tripoli, escalating battles between militias Thursday prompted multiple foreign governments to scramble to get out their citizens as thousands of Libyans fled across the border into Tunisia.

The weeks-long surge of violence renewed fears that Libya, which has been in chaos since the 2011 civil war that ousted longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, is plunging deeper into civil strife.

With a crippled central government, and weak army and police, the country's numerous rival militias have held sway in Libya for the past three years. Though they battled one another frequently, a balance of fear among them prevented any from going too far and forced them to divide areas of power. But now, militias led by Islamist and extremist commanders appear to be trying to gain an upper hand.

The Health Ministry said in a statement Thursday that the death toll in Tripoli since the violence intensified in the past month reached 214, with more than 981 people wounded.

Libyan militias capture Benghazi in surge of violence 07/31/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 31, 2014 9:40pm]
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