A Libyan grocer, who was a leading opponent of Colonel Gaddafi's, may have been stabbed to death in his London shop because of his political beliefs, it emerged yesterday.
The police, however, have played down speculation that Ali Mehmed Abuzeid, 54, was murder by a Libyan hitman because of the unprofessional way he was killed. Mr Abuzeid was stabbed several times during a struggle with a knife that is believed to have been left at the scene of the crime.
Neighbours have told police that Mr Abuzeid had complained about recent threats made against him.
Political opponents to Gaddafi said yesterday that they believed Libyan agents were almost certainly responsible for the murder.
Mr Abuzeid was found in his shop in Westbourne Grove, west London, by a relative just before 9am on Sunday. He had been stabbed in the upper body several times. A long knife had been found at the scene - which includes a butcher's shop - but it was not yet confirmed as the murder weapon. He was married with four children.
Detective Superintendent Dick Bell, who is heading the investigation, said: "I think it is unlikely that a Libyan agent carried this out although I cannot rule out a political connection at this stage. I think there is a subtle difference.
"I am aware from neighbours where he worked that he had gone to them saying that he had been threatened but exactly who by and what for I don't know. I don't have any leads that there were hallmarks of a professional killing but that does not mean it could not have been."
However British-based opposition groups to the Libyan regime yesterday said Mr Abuzeid had actively challenged Gaddafi for more than 20 years after fleeing the country in the 1970s. In 1984 he had launched a failed attack on Gaddafi's headquarters in Tripoli, for which it is believed he was sentenced to death.
Ezuldin Ghadamsi, of the Libya Democratic Patriotic Group, said the killing was "most probably" carried out by Gaddafi's agents.
He said: "Mr Abuzeid belonged to Islamic groups in the past, and these people are causing Gaddafi's regime problems."
Mr Abuzeid was involved with the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which he helped found in 1981. He has also featured in a video in which he told of how the Libyan authorities tortured him.
Mohammad Fayez Jibril, spokesman for the NFSL in Cairo, said: "There is nothing that makes us doubt it is a political assassination. Gaddafi has a long history of political assassinations."
Libya yesterday offered to help with the police investigation - a gesture the Government is expected to decline.
There has been a lot of unrest in Libya this year including incidents in which members of the security forces have been killed by Islamic extremists.Reuse content