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Masked gunmen kill elite Libyan troops in restive Benghazi

In a pre-dawn attack unidentified gunmen killed six Libyan soldiers and injured five more near a Benghazi special forces base on Saturday.

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Members of Libyan security forces run away holding weapons during clashes between protesters and troops of the Libyan Shield Forces (LSF), a coalition of militias, following a demonstration outside the LSF office in the northern city of Benghazi on June 8, 2013. (Abdullah Doma/AFP/Getty Images)

Masked gunman linked to an Islamist militant group killed six elite Libyan soldiers and injured at least five more in restive Benghazi on Saturday, military officials said.

"The clashes lasted from 2 a.m. until 6 a.m. (local time) but are over now," Colonel Mohammed Sharif, a commander of Benghazi's special forces, told Reuters.

The attack at Al-Lithi district, near the city's center, is the latest clash between government forces and armed groups, which have significantly increased in the city since the 2011 uprising ousted Muammar Gaddafi and his regime.

It's not year clear who attacked the special forces, and no group has claimed responsibility, but the BBC noted two soldiers seemed to have been executed by the Takfir group, who it says is "a clear reference to Islamist militants."

The special forces Facebook page showed graphic images of soldiers who had reportedly been killed during the attack.

The news comes as Libya's interim army chief of staff called on militias earlier this week to join the military or disband by the year's end. Col. Salem Qineydi, who spoke in Benghazi, admitted militias were necessary to secure parts of the country, but he added they would eventually have to lay down their arms.

Qineydi replaced General Yusef al-Mangoush, who resigned last Sunday after fighting in Benghazi last week killed 31 people and injured 100 more when armed protesters, backed by specials forces, clashed with militia in Benghazi.