At least five people have been killed and nine wounded in the Libyan city of Benghazi after heavy fighting between security forces and rival militias.

The clashes erupted late on Sunday, when irregular forces loyal to renegade former general Khalifa Haftar bombarded militia bases as part of his campaign to oust armed groups, he describes as terrorists, from Benghazi, hospital and security sources said.

Special forces also clashed with militia fighters in the city, the Reuters news agency reported.

Three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has slipped deep into chaos with its weak government and new army unable to control brigades of former rebel fighters and militias who often battle over political and economic power.

The violence comes shortly after heavy fighting between rival militias vying for control of Libya's main airport in Tripoli, which left at least seven people dead and halted all flights.

The clashes were the worst in the city since 40 people were killed in clashes between militias and armed residents in November.

A further 36 people were wounded in Sunday's clashes, which led to the UN temporarily relocate some of its international staff out of Libya.

The battle is believed to have started when militias made up of fighters from the city of Misrata tried to oust a rival faction from Zintan, which controlled the airport.

Source: Agencies