Gunmen fire grenades at Libyan PM's home

PATRICK MARKEY AND AHMED ELUMAMI
Last updated 06:00 28/05/2014

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Gunmen fired grenades at the Tripoli home of Libya's new Prime Minister, Ahmed Maiteeq, and his guards killed at least one assailant on Tuesday (local time), just days after parliament approved his appointment in a contested vote.

Full details of the morning attack were not clear, but Maiteeq, who is Libya's third premier in two months, was unharmed. "There were two cars and they fired RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) at his home," a source from the prime minister's office said.

Libya's young democracy is in chaos three years after the civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. Rival Islamist, anti-Islamist, regional and political factions are locked in a complex struggle for influence in the oil-producing country.

Maiteeq, a businessman from Misrata, won backing from an Islamist party and independents in a chaotic vote by congress earlier this month. The vote was challenged as illegitimate by rival lawmakers and anti-Islamist factions.

A week after his appointment, gunmen loyal to a renegade former general attacked the congress as part of the general's self-declared war on Islamist militants.

The former general, Khalifa Haftar, has rejected Maiteeq's government and demanded parliament hand over power. Early elections have been called for June, but that may not be enough to bridge deepening divisions over the country's transition.

Haftar gained the support of several regular military factions and other militia brigades fiercely opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist factions. It remains unclear how much broad backing he can win.

Rival powerful brigades more allied with Islamist political parties have already rejected Haftar as a would-be coup-plotter, leaving Libya closer to a violent stand-off among its militia factions.

Four decades of Gaddafi's one-main rule left the country with few institutions to resist the pressures of competing forces and brigades of former rebel fighters, who have become power-brokers in the vacuum of a strong state.

Worried that unrest may spill over into regional chaos, the United States and European Union have been helping train Libya's nascent army. But political turmoil has undermined programmes to build up an effective force.

OIL PROTESTS

At stake also are Libya's large oil resources. They have been battered by months of blockades by an array of former rebel groups and local protesters whose demands range from more autonomy to better payments.

A brigade from Libya's state-run Petroleum Facilities Guard was disrupting operations at Hariga port as they demanded salary payments, an official from state-run oil company AGOCO said.

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The official said the protest was interrupting work at the port, where full storage tanks forced a stoppage of production at Sarir oilfield and a reduction at Messla oilfield.

The Petroleum Facilities Guards at Hariga have been allied with Ibrahim Jathran, a former rebel commander who defected from the Guards to take over four major oil ports last summer to demand more autonomy for his region.

Jathran had agreed to lift his blockade steadily under a deal with the government. But late on Monday he said he does not recognise Maiteeq's government, suggesting the oil deal may be in jeopardised.

A spokesman for Jathran declined to comment on the Hariga protest and would not confirm his movement was involved in any action there.

The port shutout by Jathran's armed fighters and other protests have cut Libya's output to 160,000 barrels per day from 1.4 million the OPEC country was producing before the strikes and blockades began.

- Reuters

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