Police station in Libya’s Benghazi attacked, four killed

BENGHAZI (Reuters) – Four policemen in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi were killed when a police compound was attacked on Sunday, a security official said, in the latest violence to plague the cradle of Libya’s uprising.

The attack is believed to be linked to the recent detention of two men in connection with several assassinations of security officials in the city, as the assault happened next door to a police station where they were being held.

Unknown assailants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the compound, which houses patrol cars, damaging an office and killing one policeman, police spokesman Khaled Hidar said.

A gun battle then followed and three of the police reinforcements who arrived at the scene were killed.

“It was a long battle. Three other policemen were severely injured,” Hidar said.

He said two men recently detained in connection with a series of assassinations in the city, including that of Benghazi police chief Faraj al-Deirsy last month, were being held in the police station next door. Deirsy was killed in front of his home last month.

“This happened as two people were detained recently … in connection with the series of assassinations in Benghazi,” Hidar said, adding that Libya’s new interior minister had ordered police reinforcements to Benghazi.

In September, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the worst of a string of attacks on international convoys and official buildings in the city.

Libya’s government is struggling to contain former fighters and militias who gained power during last year’s uprising, which started in Benghazi and went on to oust Muammar Gaddafi.

On Saturday, clashes broke out in the former Gaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid, and three members of the security forces were killed, according to an official from the office of the army’s chief of staff. The violence began after security forces tried to make an arrest in the town.

Forces aligned to the Defence Ministry captured Bani Walid on October 24 amid chaotic scenes that demonstrated the weakness of the new government’s hold over militiamen who owe it allegiance but largely do as they please.