(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Shells were fired at a rally held on Friday in Benghazi in support of the armed forces loyal to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) which left at least four people dead and over 20 wounded.
The demonstrators gathered at al-Kish Square in Benghazi in support of General Khalifa Haftar’s army and his military operations against Islamic State (IS) forces.
Martin Kobler, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) condemned the attack on protesters in al-Kish Square.
“I am horrified by the attack on peaceful demonstrators in al-Kish Square; I strongly condemn this heinous crime,” he said, while giving his condolences to the families of the victims.
It is not yet known who had fired at the demonstrators.
Islamic State forces were able to take advantage of the security vacuum to set up operations in Libya after former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011, leaving various political and armed groups fighting for power and territory.
Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, has experienced some of the worst violence during the conflict and in 2014 General Haftar launched a campaign to fight IS militants and other armed groups to drive them out of the city.
The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) was formed in December 2015 in order to unite Libya’s various political and armed groups and put an end to the political conflict between rival factions in the east and west, however the eastern-based HoR has repeatedly delayed endorsing the unity government.
The internationally recognized GNA has moved forward despite the opposition, and on Friday its Presidential Council, which has assumed the function of Supreme Commander of the Libyan Army, established an operation room to oversee the campaign against IS forces.
Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj called on all of Libya’s armed groups to unite under a centralized military command in order to eradicate the IS threat once and for all, and warned that separate offensives by any armed groups was prohibited.