Fathi Bashagha, interior minister for eastern Libya’s United Nations-recognized government, allegedly survived an assassination attempt on Thursday, sources in his office told multiple news outlets.
Bashagha’s motorcade reportedly came under fire as it drove through Tripoli after the senior official met with Mustafa Sanalla, chair of Libya’s National Oil Corporation.
A vehicle approached his convoy before individuals inside the car opened fire, Reuters cited Bashagha as saying. One assailant was killed and two were arrested after the allegedly armored vehicle was rammed off the road. The interior minister called the incident a “well-planned” attack.
The Stablization Support Authority, an officially sanctioned armed group that claimed its members were in the rammed vehicle, disputed the account, saying that Bashagha’s personnel opened fire on their members. Relatives of the man killed in the incident, Radwan al-Hanqari of Zawiya, publicly insisted he was innocent.
Images of the severely damaged but structurally intact vehicle surfaced in Libyan media reports on Sunday. The vehicle bears the logo of the Stabilization Support Authority, which was established by Tripoli Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj this year. Dispute over the incident has triggered some controversy in western Libya.
The UN’s new Libya envoy, Jan Kubis, condemned the alleged assassination attempt and called for a “full, rapid and transparent investigation.” Kubis said in a statement that “such reckless acts” threaten the progress of the UN-backed political reconciliation process in Libya. US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland also condemned the incident.
Bashagha, who hails from a powerful Misratan family, put forth his candidacy late last year to become the unity government's next prime minister, but businessman Abdulhamid Dbeibah, also Misratan, won out.
Dbeibah was previously appointed by long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi to head the Libyan Investment and Development Company in 2007. Gadhafi was overthrown by a NATO-assisted popular uprising in 2011, plunging the country into a decade of intermittent civil war.
Bashagha was previously told to resign late last year by now-outgoing Libyan Prime Minister Sarraj after security militias opened fire on protesters in the western capital late last year, but the minister retained his position.