A suicide bomber has failed in his attempt to kill the Libyan general who is trying to neutralise the influence of Islamist militias in Libya.
The bomber drove up to the residence of General Khalifa Hifter in Benghazi and detonated his explosives-laden vehicle when guards stopped him at the compound’s gate. The site is less than a mile away from the military command centre in the suburb of al-Abyar.
Four people died in the attack, along with the bomber, and at least three were wounded, but General Hifter was unhurt. The Libyan air force’s chief-of-staff, Saqr al-Garoushi, suffered minor wounds and was taken to hospital, according to officials.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, which bore all the hallmarks of Islamic militants.
A former army chief who served under the late dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, General Hifter and army units loyal to him have been battling Islamist militias, mainly in eastern Libya. He has rallied support from the country’s weakened military, anti-Islamist politicians, tribes and diplomats, vowing to crush the militias he blames for Libya’s instability.
Since last weekend, helicopters flown by pilots loyal to the general have bombed Islamist militia camps in Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising that led to the toppling and killing of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011.
The fighting has paralysed the city, with schools postponing end-of-term exams and hospitals calling for blood donations.
Following the attack, unidentified gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the office of the new Libyan Prime Minister, Ahmed Maiteeq, one of his aides said. The grenade hit the building’s kitchen, located on the same floor as Mr Maiteeq’s office. Nobody was hurt,
Mr Maiteeq was elected by parliament last month in a chaotic vote that many MPs disputed. The outgoing premier, Abdullah al-Thani, has refused to hand over power, saying he wanted to wait for a legal ruling on whether the election was legitimate.