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Sources Say Haftar Behind Attempted Assassination of Libya’s Minister of Defense

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

Libya’s Minister of Defense Mahdi Al-Barghathi survived an attempted car bomb assassination on Wednesday night in the eastern city of Benghazi. Four people were were injured, including two children, according to Khalil Qwaider, director of media office at Benghazi Medical Center.

There has been conflicting statements about the cause of the explosion, with some claiming that it was a car bomb, and others asserting that it was a missile targeting a car near the Defense Minister’s motorcade that caused the explosion of three other cars.

Al-Bargathi’s media office announced on Thursday that he had survived an assassination attempt after a car passing in front of his motorcade exploded as he was leaving a military facility, the 204 tank battalion headquarters, which is under the control of General Khalifa Haftar. One of his guards was wounded by shrapnel during the attack.

The Minister was in Benghazi meeting with members of the House of Representatives (HoR) when the attack took place. Since early this year, the HoR has not been able to complete its responsibility and give a symbolic vote of confidence to the GNA’s cabinet as outlined in the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). Members of the HoR have been divided on whether to support the GNA, particularly because of a contentious issue over who should be the Minister of Defense and the future role of Gen. Haftar.

No party has taken responsibility for the attack, however, the Presidential Council of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) issued a statement on Thursday condemning the attempted assassination of the Defense Minister. The Presidential Council called on the relevant authorities to open an investigation into the assassination and bring the perpetrators to justice. Most importantly the statement implies that political differences should not be settled through assassinations or acts of terrorism.

Some sources are saying that Haftar, who has rejected the GNA and its efforts to unite Libya’s militias and armed groups under a single military structure, was behind the assassination attempt. Haftar has rejected the GNA’s military operation in Sirte, and in the early stages threatened to launch his own military campaign against ISIS. While many political differences exist across Libya, Haftar’s continued efforts at blocking the HoR from handing over power to the GNA has proven to be the biggest obstacle in uniting factions across the country.

Haftar’s support has been declining within his own camp. Most recently the military leadership of his Operation Dignity has become divided amongst those who continue to support him and those who have turned their support towards the GNA in Tripoli.

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