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Libyan strongman's chief of staff survives car bombing: Military

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
People check the aftermath of an explosion in the eastern city of Benghazi, Libya, January 24, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar's chief of staff has survived a car bombing in the eastern city of Benghazi, military and local sources say.

Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) said in a statement on Wednesday that General Abdelrazak al-Nadhuri "escaped unharmed from a terrorist assassination attempt after a car bomb exploded... as his convoy passed" Sidi Khalifa district at the eastern entrance to Benghazi.

Malek al-Sharif, Nadhuri's spokesman, confirmed that the chief of staff, his bodyguards and those travelling with him were unharmed. 

Nadhuri later accused "terrorist cells" of being behind the attempted assassination. "This cowardly terrorist act comes after the defeat of these terrorist groups in Benghazi."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Benghazi's al-Jala hospital, said one civilian was killed in the attack and another was wounded. Majdi al-Orfi, a security official in Benghazi, said the two victims, a Syrian and a Sudanese national, were caught in the explosion. The Syrian died.

The attack comes amid a wave of rumors about the health of Haftar. The strongman, who supports an administration based in the far east of Libya, has not many any public appearances in the past two weeks.

After several denials, the LNA on Friday denied reports of Haftar's death, saying he is receiving treatment in the French capital, Paris, and will return to Libya soon.

Haftar’s office also issued a statement, denying reports in the French media earlier this week that the LNA commander had died after suffering from a health scare in Paris, calling the reports “fake news.”

Haftar, a general under former strongman Muammar Gaddafi, became a major figure in Libya’s politics after Gaddafi’s fall and death in 2011. He has consistently opposed a government in Tripoli which is backed by the United Nations.

The 75-year-old has been backed by countries to the east of Libya, including Egypt, while governments like Algeria and Tunisia back the internationally recognized government which dominates the western territories of the oil-rich North African country.

France and some Western governments who helped oust Gaddafi from power through a NATO military operation have also been supporting Haftar and his powerful military force while governments in the Persian Gulf region, including the United Arab Emirates, continue to provide him with funds and weapons.

Various militant groups and local militias has been taking advantage of the chaos in Libya since the NATO-backed overthrow and death of  Gaddafi seven years ago.

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