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Gunmen try to kill Libyan premier

Published 27/05/2015

Abdullah al-Thinni's motorcade was attacked and one of his guards was lightly wounded
Abdullah al-Thinni's motorcade was attacked and one of his guards was lightly wounded

Gunmen have tried to assassinate Libya's internationally recognised prime minister on his way to the airport in the eastern city of Tobruk, a spokesman for his government said.

Abdullah al-Thinni's motorcade was attacked and one of his guards was lightly wounded but there were no fatalities, according to Arish Said, head of the government's media department.

"They managed to escape," he added.

Before the attack, he said armed men who had been protesting outside a session of the Tobruk government's House of Representatives tried to storm the building, firing shots into the air and demanding Mr al-Thinni be removed from office.

They were "threatening to kill the prime minister and force the House to sack him", Mr Said said. He identified the men as being funded by "corrupted political financiers" linked to powerful Tobruk tribal leaders.

The session was postponed until next week before the attempted assassination.

Nearly four years after the removal of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is consumed by chaos. The country split is between an elected parliament and weak government, and a rival government and parliament in Tripoli set up by the Islamist-linked militias that took control the capital, forcing the government to relocate to the far eastern cities of Tobruk and Bayda.

The turmoil has enabled the rise of an active Islamic State branch, which now controls at least two cities along the country's coastline.

Before the assassination attempt, a leader from Tobruk's dominant Obiedi tribe, Faraj Abu Alkhatabia, threatened Mr al-Thanni on private broadcaster Libya Awalan.

"This prime minister must resign, if he doesn't I will smash his head," he said, adding: "Either he leaves or we won't let the house of representatives stay in Tobruk."

A national security adviser to the Tobruk government linked the threat to powerful Tobruk businessman and oil magnate Hassan Tatanaki, a member of the same tribe who owns the Libya Awalan television station.

"This morning the prime minster spoke with the head of the House of Representatives regarding the pressure applied by Libyan tycoon Tatanaki who wishes to be appointed foreign minister."

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