A suicide car bomber on Wednesday targeted the home of a rogue Libyan general who has been leading an offensive against Islamists dominating the country’s political scene, killing three people and wounding at least four, according to military officials.
There were conflicting reports on whether Gen. Khalifa Hifter was wounded in the attack, which took place in the eastern city of Benghazi. Hifter’s spokesman, Col. Mohamed Higazy, said the general was not hurt but the military officials said he was wounded and taken to a Benghazi hospital.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said the Libyan air force’s chief of staff, Saqr al-Garoushi, was also wounded in the explosion and taken to the Benghazi hospital.
No other details were immediately available. It was unclear if the attacker detonated his explosives-laden car outside Hifter’s residence or if he had actually gotten inside the compound.
No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, which bore all the hallmarks of the militants whom Hifter has vowed to crush since launching his offensive last month. Hifter’s residence is less than a mile away from Benghazi’s military command in the Benghazi suburb of al-Abyar.
A former army chief under the late dictator Muammar Qadhafi, Hifter and army units loyal to him have been battling Islamist militias, mainly in eastern Libya.
He has rallied support from the country’s weakened military, anti-Islamist politicians, tribes and diplomats, vowing to crush the militias he blames for Libya’s instability.
Since last weekend, helicopters flown by pilots loyal to Hifter have bombed militia camps in Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising that led to the toppling and killing of Qadhafi in Libya’s 2011 civil war.
The fighting has paralysed the city, with schools postponing end-of-term exams and hospitals calling for blood donations.