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Tributes and anger over 'assassination' of Libyan activist

Abdel Basset Abu al-Dhahab, killed in car bombing in restive hometown of Derna, described as an 'example of courage' by UN envoy
Dhahab was described as 'an example of courage' by the UN envoy to Libya (Facebook)

Activists and politicians in Libya have condemned the apparent assassination on Wednesday of a veteran human rights activist in the militant stronghold of Derna.

Abdel Basset Abu al-Dhahab was a well-known face among Libyan activists and had worked for years as a spokesperson for Libya’s Network of Civil Society Groups.

He was killed when a bomb that had been placed in his car exploded in the centre of the eastern coastal city where the Islamic State (IS) group has a strong presence.

A local security source said Dhahab, who was married with five children, had been killed “instantly” by the explosion.

Last September, Dhahab survived another attempt on his life, when several gunmen opened fire as he left a cafe in the centre of Derna.

The gunmen sprayed his car with bullets, and pictures from the scene show the vehicle’s interior covered in blood and broken glass.

Dhahab was shot in the leg and the shoulder, but survived and chose to continue his work.

Dhahab had previously complained openly of the lawlessness in his hometown, where IS fighters have clashed with other militant groups and been bombed in airstrikes.

During a television interview in 2013 following a series of bombings in the city, he said he had urged the government to improve security but found that “the state has no presence at all in Derna”.

On Thursday the UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, paid tribute to Dhahab, calling him “an example of courage”.

Dozens of Derna residents also posted tributes to Dhahab on Facebook, with one saying he had “lived a man but died a hero”.

Activists in the city have described living in fear and trying to keep a low profile amid the fighting.

“You never know from which direction a bullet might come,” one told Al-Arabiya, speaking anonymously to protect their identity.

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