At least 17 people have been killed, after Islamic State militants briefly entered the centre of a city in western Libya, beheading 11 members of local security forces and killing another six in clashes.
Islamic State militants briefly entered the centre of the western Libyan city of Sabratha, beheading 11 members of local security forces and killing another six in overnight clashes before retreating, local authorities said on Wednesday.
Islamist militants have taken advantage of political chaos and a lack of central authority to establish a presence in Libya, with fighters loyal to Islamic State seizing control in Sirte and staging attacks in several other cities.
The fighting in Sabratha started when local brigades – formerly among the many rebel groups that joined in an uprising that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 – attacked suspected Islamic State hideouts 15 km (9 miles) south of the city, Sabratha’s municipal council said in a statement.
It said the militants then “took advantage of the security vacuum downtown and spread out all over the city”.
Sabratha’s mayor, Hussein al-Thwadi, told Reuters that six members of the local brigades had been killed in clashes on Tuesday evening and 11 more were beheaded when militants entered the security directorate building in the city centre overnight before the brigades forced them out.