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Killing of Libyan dissident underscores stakes in peace talks

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Gunmen shot dead a prominent dissident in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday as political talks in neighbouring Tunisia focused on a roadmap towards elections in Libya. 

Hanan al-Barassi, an outspoken critic of abuses in the eastern areas controlled by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), was shot dead in public, rights groups said. 

It was a reminder of the bloodshed still racking Libya as peace talks continued in Tunis and military negotiators hashed out ceasefire details in the front-line city of Sirte. 

“Barassi has been publicly vocal about cases of alleged assault and rape of women in Benghazi in which she implicated members of the armed groups in Benghazi, and she also alleged financial fraud,” said Hanan Salah, senior Libya researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch. 

Amnesty International said Barassi and her daughter had received death threats. It noted that her social media page had said on Monday she planned to release video exposing corruption within Haftar’s family. 

Neither the LNA nor other authorities in eastern Libya immediately released any statement about the assassination. 

Libya has been split since 2014 between the LNA and the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli in the west. 

Both sides represent coalitions of armed groups as well as regional and political factions. Turkey supports the GNA, while the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt back the LNA. 

In June the GNA repelled a 14-month LNA assault on Tripoli and front lines have solidified near Sirte on Libya’s central Mediterranean coast. 

Last month the United Nations brokered a ceasefire and on Tuesday a joint military commission from both sides met at a new Sirte headquarters to detail ways to implement it, including withdrawals from front lines. 

The progress in military talks comes as the United Nations presses political talks in Tunis involving 75 representatives to discuss a path to elections and the formation of a new unified transitional government.

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