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Gunmen abduct lawmaker in eastern Libya

By NOHA ELHENNAWYJuly 18, 2019

CAIRO (AP) — Gunmen attacked the home of a Libyan member of parliament in the eastern city of Benghazi, abducting her and wounding her husband, another lawmaker said Thursday.

Seham Sirqiwa was a prominent critic of Khalifa Hifter, whose forces control eastern Libya . The U.N.-recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, said it holds Hifter’s forces “fully responsible for this crime, which reflects a systematic policy aimed at inciting violence and fomenting sedition among Libyans.”

Jalal El-Showeihdy, a parliamentarian who fled Benghazi in 2016 over threats from Hifter’s supporters, said gunmen attacked Sirqiwa’s home late Wednesday, shooting her husband in the leg twice and abducting her. El-Showeihdy said he was in touch with her neighbors and friends, who provided details of the attack.

Officials in the eastern government, which is allied with Hifter, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Libya slid into chaos after the 2011 uprising that toppled Moammar Gadhafi and is now split between rival authorities in the east and west, each backed by various militias. Hifter’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive against Tripoli in April but has made little progress amid stiff resistance by militias loosely allied with the government. The fighting has killed more than 1,000 people, mostly combatants, according to the World Health Organization.

Sirqiwa had expressed opposition to Hifter’s offensive on numerous occasions in the eastern-based parliament, which supports him. Earlier this week, Sirqiwa spoke to a pro-Hifter television channel as she was attending talks in Cairo aimed at resolving Libya’s crisis. In a verbal duel with the host, she blamed “extremists” on both sides for the ongoing bloodshed.

“Seham’s views against the violations that are taking place in Tripoli and Benghazi are well-known,” el-Showeihdy said. “The response was silencing and attacking her and her husband. Until now we do not know where she is and there is no way to contact her.”

Graffiti reading “the army is a red line” was sprayed on the front of her house and a car parked outside appeared to have been vandalized, according to photos circulated online.

Rights groups say Libyan militias on all sides of the conflict have committed human rights abuses, including abducting activists, journalists and human rights activists.

“Anyone who opposes Hifter or demands an investigation into the killings and the arbitrary arrests is not allowed to speak out,” el-Showeihdy said.

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