Dozens of soldiers were killed and more than 70 wounded in car bomb attacks and clashes between troops and Islamists around Benghazi airport, a Libyan army spokesperson said on Friday, as the UN threatened sanctions.
“Thirty-six soldiers were killed on Thursday in three car bomb attacks, followed by fighting between the army and Islamists”, a special forces unit said.
Two car bombs exploded when an army convoy travelled past close to the airport, taking out three soldiers, the spokesman said.
Later, a third bombing attack struck, also near the airport.
Libya has been sliding into chaos since long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in a Nato-backed uprising three years ago, with interim authorities confronted by powerful militias that fought to oust him.
Parliament, which was elected in June, is recognised by the international community but contested by the militia controlling capital Tripoli and Islamists holding much of the eastern city of Benghazi.
The cradle of the uprising, Benghazi is now the regular scene not only of fighting but also the murder of members of the security forces, political activists and journalists.
The Islamists have since September sought to seize control of Benghazi airport – the last remaining bastion in the city of forces loyal to former general Khalifa Haftar, who launched a military campaign against the insurgents in May.