Libyan military personnel man a checkpoint set up to try to secure the capital, Tripoli, on October 20, 2013.

Story highlights

NEW: Deputy industry minister shot several times, state media reports

Killing is the first assassination of government minister since Gadhafi ouster in 2011

He was shot dead by gunmen near a market in the port city, defense official says

Sirte was the hometown of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi

CNN  — 

A Libyan minister was shot dead in the first assassination of a transitional government official since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted from power nearly three years ago.

Gunmen driving a car opened fire on Deputy Industry Minister Hassan al-Darouei, killing him instantly while he was visiting his hometown of Sirte, a Libyan defense ministry official said.

The unknown men fired on the minister near a market on Saturday evening in the Mediterranean city some 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of the coastal capital Tripoli.

His body has since been moved to a morgue, the defense official said on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media.

State news agency LANA said al-Darouei was shot several times.

Nearly three years after the start of the popular uprising that ended Gadhafi’s 42-year rule, Libya is still plagued by violence and targeted killings as a myriad of armed groups often do as they please.

Country awash with weapons

With plentiful weapons left over from the 2011 war, militias, former rebel fighters and militants often resort to force to impose their demands on the weak central authorities.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s government, weakened by political infighting and fragile state security forces, is struggling to impose law and order.

For nearly six months, the North African country has seen crude oil production and exports slump due to protests and blockades of oil fields and ports, hurting state coffers.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 uprising, there has been a string of killings targeting security officials.

Sirte was the last bastion Gadhafi’s fight to hold onto power after the capital fell to rebel fighters. He was found hiding in a drain pipe and was killed on October 20, 2011.

Al-Darouei was a member of the National Transitional Council, the political wing of the 2011 rebellion against Gadhafi’s rule.

He held the office deputy minister for industry since the transitional government was set up.

CNN’s Greg Botelho contributed to this report.