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Military spokesman says Libyan army enters central Benghazi after battling militias for days


CAIRO — Government troops entered central Benghazi Wednesday after nearly 10 days of fighting Islamic extremist militias, a military spokesman said, in violence that killed dozens of people and forced hundreds of families to flee.

Mohammed Hegazi says former Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who led a campaign against Islamist militias, appeared in a military parade on Gamal Abdel-Nasser Street in the heart of Benghazi. The majority of the city is now under army control, he said, although militias dispute the claim.

Pictures posted on social networking sites showed Hifter — once an army commander before joining the opposition decades ago — wearing a rain coat and standing on an army pickup truck.

Amid the fighting, a mortar round fell on a mourning tent in the al-Majouri neighborhood, killing seven people, a medical official said, adding that a total of 11 bodies arrived at the Benghazi Medical Center as a result of Wednesday's fighting. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Hegazi says arms and ammunition are reaching the militias from the western city of Misrata. Militias from that city along with Islamist-allied factions took control of the capital in August, forcing the elected government out.

The army relied heavily on young Benghazi men who took up arms and sealed off their neighborhoods, and led the fighting against the militias in their areas.

Hegazi said that fierce clashes are still ongoing in several pockets, but that the pro-government forces hoped to claim full control of the city in 10 days.

Libya is facing its worst violence since its 2011 civil war that toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country has two parliaments, one elected and convening in eastern city of Tobruk, and another supported by the Misrata militias and allies.

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