TRIPOLI : Gunmen assassinated a top government intelligence official in Benghazi on Thursday, a day after a political leader in the flashpoint city of eastern Libya rejected the election of a new prime minister.
Colonel Ibrahim al-Senussi Akila, head of general intelligence in Benghazi, was shot dead near the Medical Centre in the centre of the Mediterranean city, a security source told AFP. ‘He was in his car when unknown assailants opened fire. He was hit twice, once in the neck,’ the source said. Benghazi was the cradle of the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi and has since been plagued by violence that has killed dozens of members of the security forces, judges and foreigners. Forces seeking autonomy for Benghazi’s Cyrenaica region challenged the central government by occupying oil terminals in the east last summer, shutting down exports.
On Monday, the parliament speaker confirmed the appointment of Ahmed Miitig as Libya’s new premier, after a chaotic vote in the General National Congress highlighting tensions between Islamists and liberals.
But Miitig’s election has been rejected by several lawmakers and Abu Sahmein’s own deputy. On Wednesday night, Ali al-Hassi, spokesman for a self-proclaimed autonomous government in eastern Libya, rejected Miitig’s election. ‘We refuse to deal with Mr Miitig because his election was illegal,’ Ali al-Hassi told Al-Nabaa television.
And Abd Rabou al-Baraassi, who heads the Cyrenaica body, called for a new election for premier. Last July, eastern militias seized four key oil terminals, launching a blockade that slashed Libyan exports from 1.5 million barrels per day to just 250,000 bpd. In April, the government struck a deal to end the standoff, which has cost it more than $14 billion (10.1 billion euros) in lost revenues.
Under that deal, the army has retaken control of two of the terminals, and the OPEC oil cartel has said it expects Libyan exports to recover to 1.0 million barrels per day by-mid June. But negotiations are still continuing for the return of the other two. And Wednesday’s rejection of Miitig by the easterners threatens to put at risk implementation of the agreement.
The post of prime minister has proved both challenging and dangerous. Ex-premier Ali Zeidan, voted out by parliament for failing to prevent a rebel oil shipment in March, was kidnapped by gunmen last year and held for several hours. Last month Zeidan’s defence minister, Abdullah al-Thani, was appointed to replace him. But Thani, under whom the deal on the oil terminals was negotiated, quit after just five days, saying he and his family had been attacked.
Baraassi denounced what he said was ‘procrastination’ by the central government in fulfilling its side of the agreement, which included paying back wages to the terminals’ guards. He accused Islamists in parliament of causing delays, saying ‘they want to control the ports and oil revenues in Libya through their militias.’