BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Supporters of Islamic State, the militant group that has overrun parts of Iraq and Syria, have killed 14 Libyan soldiers in the south of the country, the official government said on Saturday.
In separate violence, forces loyal to the internationally recognised government staged air strikes on the port of Misrata, a western city allied to a group that holds the capital Tripoli.
Both sides also fought with ground troops near the country’s biggest oil port, part of a struggle between forces loyal to two rival governments allied to former rebel groups that helped oust Moammer Gaddafi in 2011 but now vie for power.
Western powers and Libya’s neighbours fear Islamic State and other radical groups are seeking to exploit a power vacuum in the oil-producing nation.
The recognised government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, which has been forced to work from the east since a group known as Libya Dawn linked to Misrata seized Tripoli last August, said Islamic State had executed 14 soldiers on a road north of Sabha, the main city in the south.
“Members of IS staged an attack… during which they executed 14 members of the Libyan army belonging to the infantry battalion 168,” the government said in a statement, asking the international community to lift an arms embargo to help fight what it called terrorists.
A website called Islamic State in Libya claimed responsibility for killing 12 soldiers at the same location and posted a picture purporting to show the execution of one soldier.
A rival Libyan parliament in Tripoli denounced the killing, a Tripoli-based news agency said.