Political activist killed in car explosion eastern Libya

The military chief of Libya's internationally recognized government, Gen. Khalifa Hifter

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — A car exploded in the eastern city of Benghazi late Saturday, killing three people including a political activist close to a powerful general, officials said.

The explosion rocked the downtown Benghazi district of al-Kesh which is lined with busy cafes, killing Mohammed Bougages and two others, officials said. At least 12 others were wounded, some of whom were in critical condition.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press.

Bougages was a political activist and a fiery TV host of a daily talk show called “Frankly,” which is aired on state TV. He was an outspoken supporter of General Khalifa Hifter, who has led a campaign against Islamic extremists in Benghazi since 2014.

Hifter’s campaign dubbed “Operation Dignity” came in response to dozens of assassinations of activists, judges, and security officers in Benghazi, allegedly at the hands of extremists.

Saturday’s explosion raised fears of a return to that grim period of assassinations. On Friday, the bodies of 10 unidentified men were found in a dumpster in Benghazi. The bodies, according to a statement by the Support and Reinforcement security unit which found them, bore torture marks and were gunshot wounds to the head.

Hifter— who is one of Libya’s most divisive figures — has cleared most of Benghazi from extremists except for pockets in the northern and western parts of the city. Seen as a savior in the eastern region, many in western Libya oppose him for perceiving all Islamists as extremists.

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