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Misrata's mayor murdered in ambush by Libyan gunmen

Mohamed Eshtewi shot three times, bludgeoned, and dumped outside Misrata hospital after car ambushed near airport
Mohamed Eshtewi's motorcade was ambushed just before sunset as he was being driven home from the airport with local officials (screengrab)

Libyan gunmen kidnapped and shot dead the mayor of Misrata late on Sunday after he arrived home from a trip to Turkey, reports said.

Mohamed Eshtewi's motorcade was ambushed just before sunset as he was being driven home from the airport with local officials, the Libya Herald reported. 

According to the report, Eshtewi was shot in the back three times, shot in the legs, and bludgeoned around his head. The mayor's body was later dumped outside Safwa Hospital. 

His brother, Ahmed, reportedly survived being shot in the head and was being treated in the intensive care ward at Misrata's central hospital.

The killers have not been identified.

The Libya Herald reported officials as suspecting the Misrata Military Council, led by Ibrahim Ben Rajeb, which has on several occasions tried to force Eshtewi to resign due to his support for a UN-backed agreement to unite the various governments and forces claiming power in Libya.

In May, armed hardliners briefly forced his resignation, although that was retracted shortly afterwards.

The Herald however quoted one senior official, who did not want to be identified, as saying there were several groups who may have wished Eshtawi dead.

"They have been trying to remove him for months. But killing him is not their style," he said, adding that loyalists to the former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, supporters of the renegade eastern general, Khalifa Haftar, and possibly a resurgent Islamic State group could be behind the murder.

Misrata, Libya’s biggest port and third largest city, has been relatively peaceful since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011 and the ensuing chaos inside the country.

The city is the biggest supporter, both politically and militarily, of the UN-backed Government of National Accord, which operates in Tripoli. However, some elements in Misrata remain opposed. 

Misrata’s militias were a crucial component in the downfall of Gaddafi and were the lead forces in the battle to kick the Islamic State out of Sirte.

The British ambassador to Libya, Peter Millet, condemned Eshtewi's murder on Twitter, stating Eshtwei worked tirelessly to serve the city and its population.

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