Military and security tensions were high in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in wake of the failed “assassination attempt” against Government of National Accord (GNA) Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha on Sunday.
An ensuing shootout in wake of the attack left one member of the al-Zawiya militias dead.
Militia leaders loyal to Bashagha in the cities of Misrata and Zintan held a meeting on Sunday in order to coordinate their stance to retaliate against the Zawiya militants.
The Zawiya militias had suddenly deployed in central Tripoli hours after the alleged attempt on Bashagha’s life.
The militias took over Martyrs’ Square for a short period of time, opening fire into the air before withdrawing from the area.
Defense Minister Salah al-Namroush said the security of Tripoli and Libya as a whole was a “red line” that should not be crossed by any side.
“No one is above the law,” he declared, revealing that measures have been taken to secure the capital.
He said the Tripoli region military force has since been deployed in the capital to restore security and prevent any violations.
Bashagha’s claim that he was a victim of an attempt on his life did not hold water for very long.
The minister and his associates said that his convoy came under fire by three assailants, who hail from Zawiya, soon after his meeting with Mustafa Sanalla, head of Libya’s National Oil Corporation.
Several sources questioned the allegation.
The Stabilization Support Apparatus, an armed force set up by outgoing GNA chief Fayez al-Sarraj this year, said in a statement posted online that Bashagha's guards had opened fire on one of its vehicles as it passed his convoy along the Janzour coastal road.
One of the members of the apparatus was killed and another wounded.
A relative of the victim called on Bashagha to revoke his statement about the alleged assassination. He accused him of exploiting the issue to appeal to international players that are biased to him.
His account of incident “lacks reason and logic,” he added.
Speaking to Reuters on Sunday, Bashagha said a vehicle started encroaching on his convoy and people inside the vehicle opened fire, leading to an exchange of fire in which one of his guards and one of the attackers were killed.
“It is not an incident that came by chance, but was well-planned,” Bashagha said.
His guards pursued the vehicle and it overturned, he said, adding that they arrested two people, one of whom was wanted by police.
The Justice and Development Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the failed “criminal attempt to assassinate Bashagha.”
He said the attack aimed to stoke instability and chaos.
UN envoy Jan Kubis condemned the incident and called for an investigation, saying on Twitter that “such reckless acts pose threats to stability and security and aim at derailing the political process”.
The incident comes as the GNA prepares to make way for a new interim government selected in a UN-led process aimed at unifying Libya’s warring factions.