Leading Libya activist killed in drive-by shooting

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A leading Libyan lawyer and activist who was a vocal critic of the country’s Islamists was killed Friday in a drive-by shooting in the city of Benghazi, a security official said.

Abdul-Salam al-Musmari was driving home after Friday prayers when a gray sedan intercepted his car and a gunman emerged, shooting him at close range, Benghazi security official Mohammed al-Hegazi said.

Al-Hegazi said an investigation into the motives behind the attack and who committed the killing is underway.

Al-Musmari was a leading lawyer who headed the Feb. 17 Coalition, a group credited with launching the 2011 protests against the country’s longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Al-Musmari publicly criticized the country’s Muslim Brotherhood group, which wields significant political and financial clout in post-Gadhafi politics.

He also campaigned recently against a sweeping law that bans anyone who served as a senior official under Gadhafi from working in government. The law was widely supported by many of Libya’s militias who pushed for its passage, besieging government buildings in a show of force.

Libya’s government has struggled to bring armed militias under control and continues to rely on them for security. Proliferation of weapons and armed gangs since the 2011 civil war continues to threaten the country’s security.

Early Thursday, the embassy of the United Arab Emirates came under attack when a passing car fired at the building and the nearby ambassador’s house in the capital, Tripoli. A security official said the ambassador’s house was slightly damaged in the attack. The ambassador was not in the house at the time and there were no injuries in the attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In Washington, U.S. State Department Jen Psaki condemned the embassy attack during a news conference Friday.

“The United States conveys its solidarity to the embassy’s personnel and to the government of the UAE,” Psaki said. “We also stand with the government and people of Libya as they work toward a stable, secure and prosperous future.”

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Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

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