Aug 23, 2:23 PM EDT

Libyan militia says airstrikes in capital kill 15

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Libyan militia says airstrikes in capital kill 15

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CAIRO (AP) -- Two airstrikes targeting Islamist militia positions in Libya's capital killed 15 fighters and wounded 30 on Saturday, a senior Islamist militia leader and a militia spokesman said.

It was not clear who carried out the airstrikes. Misrata militia leaders have blamed past attacks on forces allied to renegade Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who has been leading a campaign against Islamic extremists in the country's east and has used helicopters. But there is little evidence that he has the capability to carry out such strikes from hundreds of miles away and with what appear to be guided munitions.

The mysterious airstrikes have fueled speculation that foreign powers are covertly intervening in Libya's militia violence. Neighboring Algeria, Italy and other countries have denied involvement. Libya's government has called on the military to investigate.

The militia leader said the warplanes targeted the Interior Ministry and several militia positions, setting fire to a warehouse. He said two sons of the head of the military council of Misrata militias, Ibrahim Bin Rajab, were among the wounded. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to speak to journalists.

Mohammed al-Gharyani, the militia spokesman, said more than 30 fighters were wounded in the airstrikes but that the militia had not abandoned its positions, including the Interior Ministry, the army headquarters and the military police headquarters.

Al-Gharyani said militia fighters from other areas and towns were joining the Misrata forces and "our response will be severe."

Libya is witnessing its worst spasm of violence since Moammar Gadhafi was toppled in 2011. Many of the rebel brigades which helped overthrow the longtime dictator have become powerful, heavily armed militias.

A battle for control of Tripoli's international airport and surrounding areas has been raging for weeks, pitting the powerful Zintan militia from the western mountains against the Islamist-allied Misrata militia, named for the coastal city where it waged some of the most intense battles of the uprising.

The fighting has largely destroyed Tripoli's airport and prompted diplomats, foreign nationals and thousands of Libyans to flee.

A shocking video posted online showed the public execution of an Egyptian man in a football stadium by a Libyan armed group in the eastern city of Derna, Amnesty International reported Friday, calling it another manifestation of a "failed state."

It said the online video showed a man brought blindfolded to the field, while gunmen, believed to belong to a group called the Shura Council of Islamic Youth, force him to kneel before shooting him. In the video of the Aug. 19 execution, a statement is read out accusing the Egyptian of stabbing a Libyan man to death.

"This unlawful killing realizes the greatest fears of ordinary Libyans, who in parts of the country find themselves caught between ruthless armed groups and a failed state," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

Egypt's Foreign Minister condemned the killing Saturday, calling on international and regional powers to assist Libya in dealing with the rise of militant groups.

Egypt hosts on Monday a meeting for the neighbors of Libya to discuss ways to address the oil-rich north African country's descent into chaos.


Associated Press writer Mariam Rizk contributed to this report from Cairo.

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