Libyan militia clashes with Islamists in Benghazi, 19 killed

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By Ayman al-Warfalli and Ahmed Elumami BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - Libyan irregular forces backed by helicopters clashed with Islamist militias in Benghazi on Friday in fighting that left at least 19 people dead and posed a new test to the fragile government. Members of the self-declared Libyan National Army, led by retired General Khalifa Haftar, shelled bases belonging to Ansar al-Sharia and another Islamist militant group in Benghazi, said Mohamed Al-Hejazi, a spokesman for Haftar's forces. The violence prompted Libya's prime minister to order the regular military to control any armed groups - including Haftar's forces - in the eastern city, where militants often clash with the army, and assassinations and bombings are common. Since the 2011 civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi after 42 years of one-man rule, Libya has been unable to impose authority over brigades of former rebels who refuse to disarm and have carved out regional fiefdoms.