Libya: Gunmen shoot down Benghazi's top cop

Libya, flag, generic AP GraphicsBank

TRIPOLI, Libya A Libyan security official says gunmen have killed the head of the regional military police in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The official told The Associated Press that masked gunmen fired from a car at Col. Ahmed Mostafa el-Barghathy at his house in Benghazi as he was heading to the mosque to attend Friday prayers.

The official says El-Barghathy suffered chest and head injuries in the attack. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give information to the media.

El-Barghathy served in the Libyan army during the reign of the deposed leader Muammar Qaddafi.

He was one of the first army officers who took up arms against Qaddafi in the 2011 uprising.

Simmering tensions in Libya were enflamed by an Oct. 5 raid by U.S. special forces that snatched a Libyan al Qaeda suspect known as Abu Anas al Liby off the streets of Tripoli and whisked him off to custody in a U.S. warship.

He has since pleaded not guilty in a federal courtroom in New York City to terrorism charges stemming from the deadly 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa.

"This was a blatant violation to the national sovereignty," Mohammed Sawan, leader of Justice and Construction party, told the AP in a telephone interview Saturday from Benghazi. He added: "It has caused big problems and grave repercussions."

Last week, the country's prime minister became victim of the insecurity plaguing the country since the 2011 civil war that toppled Qaddafi. Militias kidnapped Ali Zidan and held him for several hours.

Such armed groups, many including Islamic extremists, carry out daily violence nationwide and have defied attempts by the weak central authorities to control them. Many of them are connected to political groups that have representatives in the parliament.

Zidan described his abduction as an attempted coup by his Islamist political rivals, using militias that he said are trying to "terrorize" the government and turn the country into another Afghanistan or Somalia.

Zidan, however, didn't name those specifically behind his kidnapping, only referring to the Libyan Revolutionaries Operation Room, the militia umbrella group loosely affiliated to the Interior Ministry.

"I wish he named the political party he thinks is behind the operation," Sawan said, adding that Zidan told his lawmakers that he didn't mean Muslim Brotherhood. "We are against any action that violates legitimacy."

In addition to Zidan's abduction, militias have besieged key ministries in the capital and stormed ministers' offices this summer to force the parliament to pass a divisive law aimed at purging officials who served under Qaddafi from new government. The parliament passed the law virtually at gunpoint, highlighting the challenges facing Libya as it tries to transition to democracy.

The Muslim Brotherhood came second in the country's first parliamentary elections last year after a non-Islamist bloc led by the wartime prime minister. It has five ministers in Zidan's government.

A day before Zidan's abduction, parliament agreed to form a committee to discuss either an alternative to Zidan or to summon him for questioning.

"The government represented by the prime minister has had no success," Sawan said.

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