Fathi Bashagha didn’t suffer any injury during the attack in which, his convoy was targeted by gunmen, two of them have been arrested and the third one was killed, the Libyan interior ministry said.

In this February 09, 2021 file photo, Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha is seen before making a speech at the ministry building in Tripoli, Libya.
In this February 09, 2021 file photo, Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha is seen before making a speech at the ministry building in Tripoli, Libya. (AA)

The powerful interior minister of Libya's unity government has survived an assassination attempt on a highway near the capital Tripoli, an official from his inner circle said.

The assailants fired heavily on Fathi Bashagha's convoy on Sunday as he drove through western Tripoli after visiting the National Oil Corporation and the headquarters of the ministry's law enforcement force, the source said.

Bashagha's convoy "was fired on from an armoured car while he was on the highway. His police escort returned fire, " the source said.

The Libyan Interior Ministry said in a statement the minister was fine and didn’t suffer any injury during the attack.

One security member was injured, while one of the assailants was killed and the other two were arrested, according to the statement. 

"The assailants will be charged in court," it said.

The ministry has launched an investigation into the shooting, the statement added. 

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Heavyweight in Libyan politics

The attack comes as the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), in which Bashagha serves, prepares to make way for a new interim government selected in a UN-led process aimed at unifying Libya's warring factions.

Bashagha, a prominent figure from the eastern city of Misrata, was a losing candidate to become prime minister of the unity government, but has made public statements of support for the new administration.

Initial investigations seemed to show those who carried out Sunday's attack were from Zawiya, another powerful city 45 kilometres (28 miles) west of Tripoli, the source said.

As interior minister, Bashagha had pledged to rein in armed groups that have held power on the ground in western Libya since a 2011 uprising and often enjoy official status under the ministries of defence and interior.

The groups were largely united in defending Tripoli from forces led by eastern-based warlord Khalifa Haftar between April 2019 and June 2020.

Recent weeks have been relatively calm, but heavy gunfire could be heard from central Tripoli overnight between Saturday and Sunday.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies