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Libyan mayor Mohamad Eshtewi kidnapped and killed in Misrata

Libyan mayor Mohamad Eshtewi kidnapped and killed in Misrata

Unknown gunmen have killed the mayor of Libya’s port city Misrata after reportedly chasing his car and kidnapping him.

Mayor Mohamad Eshtewi’s body was found dumped in the street not long after returning to the city from an official visit to Turkey.

Libya’s third-largest city is reputed to be safer and more stable than most in the conflict-ridden country.

But the mayor had faced growing opposition earlier this year.

Diplomats have condemned the killing. Ghassan Salame, special representative to Libya’s UN mission (UNSMIL), said he felt “deep grief”.

Mr Eshtewi was abducted by unknown assailants after leaving the airport in the city.

A Libyan official, Abubakr Alhraish, told the BBC that the mayor had chosen not to have his usual protection.

“The mayor normally travels with security but he opted out after his arrival from Istanbul because he said his brother was picking him up from the airport.”

Mr Alhraish said the mayor and his brother had been ambushed by four assailants, who then shot the brother in the leg and abducted the mayor. He added:

“The brother survived. The mayor’s body was found about half-an-hour later in front of al-Safwa hospital in Misrata.

“There is a city-wide investigation to uncover who was behind this.”

Image caption Misrata has been seen as one of Libya’s safest cities

The port city of Misrata is a key gateway for food and other imports into Libya. It is also the country’s only tax-free zone.

It is one of the few places where foreign business people feel safe enough to work, fearing poor security elsewhere.

‘Political chaos still plagues Libya’

Analysis – Rana Jawad, BBC News

Assassinations are nothing new in Libya but this is one of the most high-profile killings this year.

It is a worrying development because Misrata has largely been immune to killings and kidnappings targeting high-profile people.

It is also a concern for international mediators in the country’s ongoing political and military crisis, because Misrata’s powerful armed groups and political figures are seen as key to any eventual deal between Libya’s regional factions.

While it is not yet known who killed Mr Eshtewi, the spotlight is likely to fall on the mayor’s opponents in the city.

He faced growing opposition from parts of the military council there earlier this year who tried to oust him from power but failed.

The city’s courthouse also suffered a deadly attack in October which was claimed by so-called Islamic State.

Whoever turns out to be responsible for this killing, it is ultimately symptomatic of the political chaos still plaguing the country.

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