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Libyan lawmakers, top officials discuss Benghazi violence

By Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
November 4, 2013 -- Updated 1917 GMT (0317 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Government and security officials are summoned to General National Congress
  • Move comes a day after a blast killed a Libyan intelligence officer and his son, injured family
  • Libya's Deputy Prime Minister vows to bring those responsible to justice
  • United Nations Support Mission in Libya condemns continuing assassinations in Benghazi

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Libyan lawmakers summoned top government and security officials to appear before the General National Congress on Monday to discuss the deteriorating security situation in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The move comes a day after an explosion killed a Libyan intelligence officer and his 2-year-old son and left his pregnant wife and 8-month-old child seriously injured, state media reported.

According to the state news agency, LANA, an explosive device hit the intelligence officer's car in Benghazi on Sunday night, killing him instantly and seriously wounding his family. Libyan state TV reported the son later died in a hospital.

In recent weeks, there has been an uptick in violence in the city, most notably in an assassination campaign that has primarily targeted security force members, most of whom held positions under the former regime.

In an address to the General National Congress on Monday, Al-Siddiq Abdul Kareem, Libya's Deputy Prime Minister and acting interior minister, vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

He told lawmakers about security plans that would be enforced across the country that would include the installation of security cameras in different cities. He said Benghazi would be the first city to have these measures.

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The United Nations Support Mission in Libya released a statement Monday condemning the continuing assassinations in Benghazi.

"UNSMIL emphasizes the need for intensified efforts by the government and the citizens to confront these heinous crimes by taking practical and swift steps to address its devastating impact on peace and security as well as the safety of the people of Benghazi," the statement said. "The Mission calls on the Libyan authorities to give this matter the priority it deserves to ensure the appropriate conditions to accomplish the democratic transition in Libya."

While no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, the violence is believed to be the work of Islamist extremist groups, some with ties to al Qaeda, operating in the eastern part of the country.

Many Libyans blame the government for what they say is a lack of accountability, with so far no one being brought to justice in the escalating violence in Benghazi.

Scores of residents gathered in central Benghazi after hearing about Sunday's attack, calling on the people to rise up and fight the violence plaguing their city, which was the birthplace of the Libyan revolution.

"Politically motivated assassinations have increased exponentially since the beginning of the year amid a general backsliding in security in Libya and in particular in Benghazi" Said Hanan Salah, a Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Last night's targeting of an officer, resulting in his death and that of his child and injuring of his wife and another very young child, represents a serious escalation in violence ..."

Many Libyans remain skeptical about the government's ability to enforce security in the country, especially in Benghazi. They are also concerned about the worsening security situation and the increasing power of the hundreds of militias with different regional and political loyalties that continue to operate freely in the country.

The weakness of Libya's central government and its inability to build an army and police force was underscored last month with the kidnapping of the country's Prime Minister by a militia in Tripoli, which seized him for a few hours before another militia released him.

"The authorities' lack of ability to impose law and order and hold perpetrators to account for crimes committed since the ouster of strongman Moammar Gadhafi in the 2011 uprising, only feeds into this escalation of violence," Salah told CNN on Monday. "The continued impunity of militias represents a major factor of destabilization in the country, and authorities need to focus on rebuilding their justice sector and strengthening their police and army to counter the violence."

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