Libyan interior minister survives attack on motorcade

Armed men opened fire at Fathi Bashagha’s motorcade on a highway in Tripoli

Libyan interior minister survives attack on motorcade

Libya's interior minister Fathi Bashagha. Reuters file

Cairo, February 21

The motorcade of the interior minister of Libya’s UN-backed government came under attack on Sunday in the capital, Tripoli, officials said.

Armed men opened fire at Fathi Bashagha’s motorcade on a highway in Tripoli, wounding at least one of his guards, said Amin al-Hashmi, a spokesman for the Tripoli-based Health Ministry.

He said the minister survived the attack and his guards chased the assailants, killing one and detaining two others.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that Bashagha was returning to his residence in the Janzour neighbourhood when armed men in an armoured vehicle opened fire on his convoy.

The statement called the attack an “attempted assassination” of the minister.

Earlier on Sunday, Bashagha met with Mustafa Sanalla, head of Libya’s National Oil Corporation to discuss the security of oil facilities and how to strengthen the corporation’s independence to “ensure a fair distribution of wealth among all Libyans”.         

He posted a photo for both of them on his Twitter account, calling their meeting “fruitful”.         

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which underscores the insecurity in the North African county.

The US Ambassador in Libya Richard Norland condemned the attack and called for an investigation to hold those responsible accountable.

“Minister Bashaga’s focus on ending the influence of rogue militias has our full support,” Norland said.

Oil-rich Libya was plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The country has been divided between two governments, one in the east and another in the west, each backed by a vast array of militias as well as foreign powers.

Earlier this month, an UN-picked body comprised of Libyans from both sides appointed an interim government — a three-member Presidential Council and a prime minister — to lead the country through elections, scheduled for December 24.

Bashagha was a contender for the post of prime minister, in the end Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah was chosen to lead the transitional Cabinet.

The forum also picked Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country’s east, to lead the Presidential Council. —AP

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