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Mar 25, 12:56 PM EDT

Islamic State group car bomb, clashes leave 17 dead in Libya



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TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- The Islamic State group's affiliate in Libya said it played a role in a string of suicide car bombings that killed 12 people Wednesday in the eastern city of Benghazi. Meanwhile, its militants carried out an attack on a rival militia in the central coastal city of Sirte, leaving five dead.

A Libyan security official said the three suicide bombings, which also wounded 25, were targeting forces of Libya's elected government and allied fighters. Two of the bombings were carried by militants affiliated to the umbrella group known as The Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries.

The Islamic State affiliate claimed responsibility for the other bombing in a post on an Internet bulletin board known to be used by the group and its sympathizers. The claim included a picture of an alleged Tunisian suicide bomber it said was involved in the attack.

The attacks came in retaliation for the killing of Mohammed al-Aribi, a top commander under the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries who fought alongside Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked militants, the security official said. Al-Aribi, who died Monday, was mourned by the Tripoli-militia backed group and parliament on Tuesday.

The security official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn't authorized to brief journalists.

In the central city of Sirte on Wednesday, Islamic State fighters killed five in clashes with a militia from the western city of Misrata, a militia commander said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief journalists. Sirte - the home of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi - became the second city to fall into hands of the extremist group. Misrata, which is close to Sirte, has sent its militias to battle the militants.

Libya has plunged into chaos since the 2011 overthrow and death of Gadhafi, leaving the country with two parliaments and two governments, along with rival militaries and militias. The power struggle and fierce fighting has paved the way for the Islamic State group's expansion.

Also Wednesday, a new U.N. report documented violent attacks and abuse including abductions, torture and death threats faced by human rights activists in Libya. Some activists have been forced to work in secret, others are missing and some have fled the country.

"Civilians in Libya, including human rights defenders, have few or no avenues to seek protection or access to remedy for the harm suffered," the report said. It said Libya desperately needs functioning law enforcement and justice systems, and called on the international community to support Libyan activists by issuing emergency visas.

Some human rights defenders who have fled Libya have continued to receive death threats on their mobile phones and social media pages, the U.N. report said, mentioning two cases where activists were physically assaulted in Tunisia, apparently by Libyans.

Islamic extremist militias have been targeting Christians, women, journalists, refugees and those considered former loyalists of Moammar Gadhafi, who was toppled and killed in Libya's 2011 civil war.

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