BENGHAZI, Libya: A newspaper editor and critic of Libya’s jihadists was gunned down Monday in the lawless eastern city of Benghazi, an Islamist stronghold, medics said.
They said Meftah Bouzid, 50, editor of the weekly newspaper Burniq, was shot dead in the centre of the Mediterranean city.
A journalist and analyst, Bouzid often went on television to criticize Islamic extremists, resulting in threats to his life according to a friend.
Libyan authorities have struggled to stamp out lawlessness in a country awash with weapons from the 2011 revolution which toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gadhafi.
Ex-rebels, especially Islamists, have been blamed for deadly attacks on dozens of members of the security forces, judges and foreigners in Benghazi, the city where the revolution was born.
Bouzid’s murder came a day after Libya’s new Prime Minister Ahmed Miitig won a vote of confidence Sunday in the embattled interim parliament for his proposed cabinet.
But separatists who have blocked oil terminals in eastern Libya rejected the Miitig government in a statement Monday, and called on outgoing premier Abdullah al-Thani to keep his post.
Thani resigned earlier this month for security reasons, saying he and his family had come under attack.
The position of the separatists, ex-rebels who have turned against the interim authorities, reflects the deep power struggles that have been playing out in the North African country between politicians and militias since Gadhafi’s overthrow.
Bouzid and his paper came out openly in support of a military drive launched on May 16 by renegade general Khalifa Haftar to crush Islamists in Benghazi, in a so-called “dignity” campaign.
Hundreds of people attended Bouzid’s funeral, including a number of journalists, an AFP correspondent said, and journalists gathered in Benghazi and Tripoli to speak out against attacks on the media.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), condemned the killing “in the strongest terms,” urging the “authorities to conduct an investigation as quickly as possible” to identify those responsible for the murder.
Last week, the watchdog had voiced concern over the fate of journalists in Libya and urged an end to attacks targeting media personnel as well as civilians.
The UN mission in Libya also urged a speedy investigation into Bouzid’s murder, which it called a “terrorist act”.
And Mohamed al-Najem, head of the Libyan NGO the Center for Press Freedom, accused “groups that want to muzzle courageous voices” of being behind the attack in an interview with Al-Nabaa television, without giving further details.
With lawlessness in the mostly desert nation rising, a spokesman for Tunisia’s foreign ministry told AFP that other North African countries will hold an “urgent meeting” on Libya.
“An emergency meeting of the Arab Maghreb Union will take place on June 1 in Tunis to discuss the situation in Libya,” said spokesman Mokhtar Chaouchi.
He added the session would be aimed at reaching a “political solution to the multidimensional crisis in Libya, without interference”.
The Union is made up of Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco.