BENGHAZI — Islamist militants attacked an army base in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Monday.

This triggered fierce clashes involving helicopters and jets that killed at least seven people and wounded 40 others, residents and security sources said.

The violence followed a week of fighting between rival militias for control of Tripoli International Airport in the capital that has prompted the North Africa country to appeal for international help to stop Libya becoming a failed state.

Tripoli was calmer on Monday, but in Benghazi, militants linked to Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia attacked an army camp and were repelled by troops and forces loyal to renegade retired general Khalifa Haftar, who has been carrying out a self-declared war on Islamist fighters, security sources said.

"Ansar al-Sharia tried to take over one special forces camp, but the special forces and Hafter’s forces fought back, using helicopters and military aircraft in their attack," one source said, asking not to be identified for security reasons.

Since the 2011 civil war that toppled autocrat Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s fragile government and new army have been unable to assert authority over rival brigades of former rebels fighting for political and economic influence. Ansar al-Sharia is listed by the US as a foreign terrorist organisation, and has entrenched itself in Benghazi, where it has often been blamed for assassinations and attacks on soldiers.

Gen Haftar, a former Gaddafi army officer who fled to the US after breaking ranks with the Libyan leader, has launched a campaign on the Islamists in Benghazi, bringing to his side elements of the regular army and air force.

In the capital, the clash over Tripoli airport over the last week had killed at least 47 people, the health ministry said, in some of the worst violence in the city since the 2011 civil war. The clashes have stopped most international flights.

Reuters