TRIPOLI–Gunmen assassinated the mayor of Libya’s third-largest city, Misrata, late on Sunday, ambushing his car inside the city, security officials said.
The North African oil producer has been in chaos since the 2011 uprising that unseated Muammar Gaddafi, but Misrata, Libya’s biggest port, had been relative peaceful until now.
Gunmen chased the car of Mayor Mohamed Eshtewi after he left Misrata airport following his arrival on a plane from Turkey, a security official said, adding it was unclear who was behind it. However, responsibility is already being directed at militant revolutionaries and Islamists in Misrata, reported the Libya Herald.
The Herald reported that the car was ambushed as it was stopping at traffic lights on the airport road. Eshtewi was seized and his brother, Ahmed, who was also in the car was shot in the head.
Ahmed reportedly survived and is now in a serious but stable condition in the Hisrata Central Hospital, but Eshtewi’s body was found dumped outside the Safwa Hospital.
Municipal councillor Mustafa Krwat, who is in charge of security in Misrata, said the cause of death was a sharp blow to the head, according to the Herald. Various media reports describe multiple bullet wounds, some to Eshtewi’s back and others to the legs.
Breaking News: The Mayor of Misrata, Mohamed Eshtewi, was kidnapped and killed, hours after his return from an official trip to Turkey. pic.twitter.com/bUWRoZtdEQ
— The Libya Observer (@Lyobserver) December 17, 2017
In October, a bomb exploded at the city’s court, killing about four people and wounding 40 others in an attack claimed by ISIS.
Many have condemned the assassination, voicing their disappointment on social media. Eshtewi was seen by many as a good man who was attempting to reconcile moderate and hardline elements in Misrata, as well as between the city and eastern Libya, reported the Herald.
Misrata, almost 125 miles (200 km) east of Tripoli, is the gateway for food and other imports into Libya and the country’s only tax-free zone. It is one of the few places still frequented by foreign business people fearing poor security elsewhere.
By Ahmed Elumami
Additional reporting by Melanie Sun