x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Hours after voting, Libyan female activist shot dead at home

Salwa Bugaighis played a prominent role in the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi and efforts to establish democracy in Libya.

Salwa Bugaighis, a Libyan lawyer and human rights activist, played an active part in Libya's 2011 revolution, which overthrew the regime of Muammer Qaddafi. Abdullah Doma / AFP / May 1, 2011
Salwa Bugaighis, a Libyan lawyer and human rights activist, played an active part in Libya's 2011 revolution, which overthrew the regime of Muammer Qaddafi. Abdullah Doma / AFP / May 1, 2011

CAIRO // One of Libya’s most prominent female activists was assassinated in Benghazi when gunmen stormed her house.

Salwa Bugaighis, a lawyer and rights activist, was at the forefront in the 2011 uprising against dictator Muammar Qaddafi and had since become an international face for Libyans’ efforts to build democracy in their country. She was among the most outspoken voices against militiamen and extremists who have run rampant in the country since Qaddafi’s fall.

The identities of the gunmen were not immediately known. Islamic radical militias, however, have been blamed for frequent assassinations of secular activists, judges, moderate clerics, policemen, soldiers in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city.

Bugaighis was shot in the head on Wednesday night, just hours after casting her ballot in Libya’s parliament elections, the state news agency LANA said. She was rushed to a hospital where she died of her wounds.

Earlier in the day, she had been speaking by phone from her home on a Libyan TV channel about fighting raging near her neighbourhood, sparked when militants attacked army troops that had been deployed to protest polling station.

“These are people who want to foil elections,” she told Al Nabaa network as rattling gunfire interrupted her call. “Benghazi has been always defiant, and always will be despite the pain and fear. It will succeed.”

In the evening, five gunmen broke into her home, the house’s guard told police, according to the Al Wasat newspaper. They first asked about her son Wael, then shot the guard in the leg, then broke into the house. The guard said he heard gunfire from inside.

Bugaighis’s husband, who is a member of the Benghazi municipal council and was also at home at the time, has disappeared since the attack.

Bugaighis had only just come to Benghazi from the capital, Tripoli, to cast her ballot in the election, a family friend Hanaa Mohammed said. She had previously fled with her family to Jordan because of death threats against them. The son, Wael, survived an abduction attempt earlier in the year.

More recently, she and her husband came back and were staying in Tripoli, though their two children – including Wael – remained in Jordan, a family friend said.

Since the civil war Bugaighis became one of Libya’s main faces abroad, representing the country at international conferences.

During the 8-month civil war against Qaddafi, Bugaighis was a member of the National Transitional Council, the rebels’ political leadership body. Since then, she was deputy head of the National Dialogue Preparatory Commission, which is trying to work out reconciliation among the country’s rival factions, tribes and communities.

*Associated Press