Six soldiers were killed in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi when clashes erupted between armed groups and soldiers, state media reported on Saturday.

Gunmen attacked and gutted military offices and government buildings in the city overnight, leading to clashes with soldiers.

An army spokesman told the official Libyan news agency LANA that four members of the army’s Special Forces were shot dead by snipers who were with the masked gunmen.

“Two soldiers were slaughtered with knives when they were attacked on their way to work,” he added.

Benghazi’s Benina Airport was forced to close for two hours, as the unrest prevented employees and flight crew from arriving on time for their scheduled flights, said airport manager Jamal Agili.

The Defence Ministry sent reinforcements from the capital Tripoli to Benghazi, which has seen increasing violence in recent months.

The ministry said that it “will not tolerate attacks on police and army offices or public property in Libya”, vowing to respond strongly to any attacks.

Last week, clashes between a militia group — affiliated with the ministry — and protesters in Benghazi killed 31 people. Libya’s military chief of staff resigned following the violence.

Libya’s new rulers have been struggling to assert their authority and re-establish security in the North African country since Mohammed Qadhafi’s overthrow in 2011.

Benghazi, the birthplace of the anti-Qadhafi uprising, has seen several deadly clashes and blasts in recent months, as militia who joined the 2011 conflict have yet to lay down their weapons.

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