A picture taken on October 22, 2014 in the Libya's eastern coastal city of Benghazi shows smoke billowing from buildings after the Libyan airforce, loyal to former general Khalifa Haftar, pounded the buildings were reported to be used for storing ammunition belonging to Benghazi-based Islamist Ansar al-Sharia group. Fierce fighting have been raging for days in several parts of Libya's second city between pro-government forces led by Haftar and Islamist militias. AFP PHOTO / ABDULLAH DOMA (Photo credit should read ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP/Getty Images)
November 3, 2014 12:11 AM EST

The Libyan Army is urging the evacuation of a central neighborhood of Benghazi, the country’s second largest city, in preparation for a military offensive against Islamist groups.

“The chief of staff asks all residents of the Assabri district to leave by 12:00 noon [local time on Monday],” Ahmed al-Mesmari, spokesman for the chief of staff, told Reuters.

Located in Benghazi’s main commercial zone, the Assabri district boasts a seaport used for crucial wheat and petrol imports. The Ansar al-Sharia militant group fled there after the army seized other areas of the city.

Clashes between the Libyan Army, which is backed by loyalists to a former general, and Islamist groups in the east of the city have killed at least 230 people since the start of a recent army offensive, medical authorities said. In addition, one of the city’s main childbirth hospitals has been evacuated and moved to another location.

In August, an armed group seized the capital Tripoli and forced Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni to move east, leaving Libya divided between two governments struggling for overall political control.

In the three years since the ousting of longstanding dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, rival rebel groups that helped achieve his overthrow have been competing for power and control of the nation’s precious oil reserves.


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