Libya’s powerful interior minister survived an assassination attempt on Sunday, sparking fears of resurgent violence in the war – torn country despite the UN’s ongoing peace efforts.
Fathi Bashagha’s convoy “was fired from an armored car while on the highway” near the capital Tripoli, said a member of the legitimate government of the National Accord (GNA) inner circle.
“His police escort returned fire. Two of the attackers were arrested,” the source quoted by the Agence French-Presse (AFP) added.
A third suspect, identified as Radwan Al-Hangari, later died at the hospital, according to the same source, who added that the three attackers hailed from Zawiya, 50 kilometers west of Tripoli.
An Interior Ministry official confirmed Bashagha was unharmed.
In a statement, the ministry said Bashagha had been targeted for an “assassination attempt when he returned from his residence in Janzur.”
It said the attackers used an armored Toyota truck equipped with a machine gun.
The security forces responded and arrested the militants, but a guard was wounded in the attack, it added.
Earlier on Sunday, Bashagha met with Mustafa Sanalla, head of Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC), to discuss security for oil facilities and how to strengthen the company’s independence to “ensure a fair distribution of wealth among all Libyans.” He posted a photo of them both on his Twitter account and called their meeting “fruitful”.
Bashagha, a heavyweight in Libyan politics and an anti-corruption campaigner, has intensified his efforts in recent months to absorb armed groups into state security forces while trying to curb those acting outside the state, a campaign rejected by some groups.
The 58-year-old has served as interior minister for GNA since 2018 and had been a favorite to lead a new caretaker government during UN-led peace efforts after a ceasefire in October last year.
The post finally went to Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, a 61-year-old engineer who called for reconstruction, democracy and reunification in Libya.
Libya has been torn apart by violence since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that overthrew and killed dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Two rival administrations, supported by a number of militias and foreign powers, had fought for control of the oil-rich country.
After pro-GNA forces, backed by Turkey and Qatar, last summer rejected a year-long offensive by East-based Putist general Khalifa Haftar to take the capital, UN-backed ceasefire set the stage for talks aimed at reaching a political solution. the conflict.
Dbeibah and a three-member Presidency Council were elected by UN-elected delegates at the talks in Switzerland on 5 February. They will lead the country to elections scheduled for December 24.
While some have expressed hope for meaningful peace talks, the blatant attempt at Bashagha’s life was a reminder of Libya’s precarious security situation and the swing of armed groups across the chaotic country.
Int-community condemns attack
Libya’s new administration strongly condemned the assassination attempt on Sunday against the country’s interior minister. Dbeibah spoke on Twitter in a joint statement with the President of the Presidency, Mohammad Younes Menfi. They called on the judiciary and law enforcement officials to conduct a transparent and thorough investigation into the incident and those involved.
The two leaders expressed their condolences to the family of the person who lost his life in the incident.
The State High Council in a statement condemned the assassination attempt on the Interior Minister.
A similar condemnation came from the representative of the Tobruk House of Representatives, Aguila Salih.
While Turkey condemned the assassination attempt, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu spoke on Monday over the phone with Bashagha and conveyed a warm welcome to him.
In addition, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also spoke by telephone with Bashagha. By receiving details of the attack from him, Akar conveyed a message of unity and solidarity for Libya.
The UN Special Envoy to Libya, Jan Kubis, also called for a “complete, swift and transparent inquiry” into the incident, saying it was aimed at “tracking the political process and other efforts in support of Libya and its people.”
He said the attack had also shown “the importance of just keeping all arms in the hands of the legitimate authorities”.
Libyan Ambassador to the European Union Jose Sabadell called for a “full investigation” and tweeted that “this hateful act must not affect the ongoing political process.”
Italy called on “all Libyan actors to refrain from any action that would jeopardize the path towards the stabilization of Libya.”
The US Embassy in Tripoli expressed “outrage” and said Bashagha’s “focus on ending the influence of rogue militias has our full support.”
The shooting came just days after Libyans marked the 10th anniversary of Gaddafi’s overthrow.