By Ayman al-Warfalli
BENGHAZI, Libya – Four children were killed in rocket attack on an area of the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi where Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for a mortar attack, officials said on Wednesday.
The children were killed on Tuesday when a rocket hit their neighbourhood, near an area where army forces and Islamist brigades have been fighting, Libya’s internationally recognised government said in a statement.
“Four innocent children were killed by an extremist terrorist group in one of the ugliest crimes,” the government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said in a statement.
Militants claiming loyalty to Islamic State said on Twitter they had fired mortar rockets into the district where the children were killed. They posted pictures purportedly showing their fighters loading and firing mortars, without mentioning the children.
Benghazi has been a battlefield for a year between army forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, Thinni’s general, and Islamist groups, dividing Libya’s second-largest city.
The army flew air strikes against the Islamist groups in the port area on Wednesday, a military source said. There was no immediate word on casualties.
The battle is part of wider conflict between former rebels groups who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but have now fallen out along tribal, regional and political lines.
Islamic State militants have exploited the security vacuum as two governments fight each other, with neither side dominating the other. The militants have killed dozens of foreign Christians and attacked oil fields and a luxury hotel in Tripoli.