TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Gunmen opened fire on the motorcade of Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha in the capital Tripoli on Sunday but he escaped unharmed, a source close to Bashagha said.
The assailants fired heavily on Bashagha’s convoy as he drove through western Tripoli after visiting the National Oil Corporation and the headquarters of the ministry’s law enforcement force, the source said.
Bashagha’s guards exchanged fire with the attackers before pursuing them, killing one, injuring another and arresting two, according to the source.
The attack comes as the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), in which Bashagha serves, prepares to make way for a new interim government selected in a U.N.-led process aimed at unifying Libya’s warring factions.
Bashagha, a prominent figure from the eastern city of Misrata, was a losing candidate to become prime minister of the unity government, but has made public statements of support for the new administration.
Initial investigations seemed to show those who carried out Sunday’s attack were from Zawiya, another powerful city 45 kilometres (28 miles) west of Tripoli, the source said.
As interior minister, Bashagha had pledged to rein in armed groups that have held power on the ground in western Libya since a 2011 uprising and often enjoy official status under the ministries of defence and interior.
The groups were largely united in defending Tripoli from forces led by eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar between April 2019 and June 2020.
Recent weeks have been relatively calm, but heavy gunfire could be heard from central Tripoli overnight between Saturday and Sunday.
Reporting by Tripoli bureau; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky