A series of assassinations in Benghazi in eastern Libya have mostly targeted former members of the Qaddafi regime. The attacks may be motivated by revenge. But they could be an attempt to increase the influence of the east within the government.
Over the last several weeks unknown attackers have targeted a number of persons associated with the former Qaddafi regime even though in many cases the targets defected quite early to the rebel side. Many targets had been associated with Qaddafi's internal Security Organization.
Qaddafi brutally repressed Islamic militants during his reign in power an aspect of his rule that actually pleased many in the west. Members of repressed groups may now be exacting vengeance on those who formerly were associated with this repression. However, the fact that the assassinations all took place in the east may indicate a different purpose.
The eastern part of Libya used to be a separate country Cyrenacia. Under Qaddafi this area felt underrepresented and unfairly treated. Power was concentrated in Tripoli and the central government. The east is seeking a degree of autonomy in the new Libya. The assassinations may be aimed at weakening the power of the central government and weakening its intelligence capabilities as well as its power within the government.
As well as assassinations there have been other important violent activities in eastern Libya. Two IED's exploded at the military intelligence building in Benghazi on August 1. On July 31st gunmen broke into a Benghazi prison and freed Salem al-Obeidi who claims to have killed in 2011 Major General Younis who was the highest ranking defector from the Qaddafi regime and had been military leader of the rebels.
On July 29th gunmen attacked a convoy of Lt. General Khalifa Hafter former rebel commander as he traveled to his home. Hafter served in the Gadaffi regime but left to become an ardent opponent of Qaddafi. He lived in the U.S. for many years and is thought to have connections with the CIA. Perhaps this has a bearing on the attempt to assassinate him as well.
Since June at least 12 members of the former Internal Security Organization have been killed.
The most recent target was General Mohammed Hadia a high ranking defense official. He was just leaving a mosque after Friday prayers when he was ambushed. One of his son's said:
"My father was returning from the mosque after Friday prayers with a neighbour when a car stopped in front of them with four people on board,....They asked for his identity, then shot him dead. "Hadia was an early defector from the Qaddafi regime and had been made head of armaments at the defense ministry.
Last Sunday, a former military intelligence colonel, Suleiman Bouzrida was shot in the head and killed when walking to a mosque for prayers. He also joined the revolution in the early stages. Libya is obviously far from secure and still suffers from internal divisions and groups who are willing to use force to achieve their aims.