Libya ex-air force chief murdered in Benghazi

Benghazi - A former Libyan air force chief was shot dead overnight in the country's violence-ridden second city of Benghazi, medical and army sources said on Thursday.

"Unidentified gunmen killed former air force chief of staff general Ahmed Habib al-Mesmari in the Al-Hadaek district" in the city centre, a senior air base officer in Benghazi told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mesmari stood down as air force chief of staff in April after attending a meeting with renegade general Khalifa Haftar whom the then authorities in Tripoli accused of staging a coup d'etat.

A hospital source in Benghazi said he had been "hit by several bullets".

Since dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s regime was ousted in 2011, dozens of military figures have been assassinated in Benghazi.

For several months, the city has seen clashes between army forces loyal to Haftar and Islamist militias, including Ansar al-Sharia jihadists.

The Libyan authorities and the United States consider Ansar al-Sharia to be a "terrorist" group.

On May 16, Haftar's forces launched an offensive against the jihadists in Benghazi, but his campaign has not been a success.

On Wednesday, the Islamists launched another assault on Benghazi airport, Haftar's final redoubt.

There has been almost daily fighting between Haftar's forces and the militias, which now control nearly all of Benghazi, the cradle of the 2011 uprising.

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