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Published: Sunday January 12, 2014 MYT 5:10:01 PM
Updated: Sunday January 12, 2014 MYT 5:10:01 PM

Gunmen assassinate Libyan deputy industry minister

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Gunmen assassinated Libya's deputy industry minister as he drove home from shopping in the coastal city of Sirte late on Saturday in an attack security officials blamed on hardline Islamist militants.

Libyan is still plagued by widespread violence and targeted killings two years after the civil war ousted Muammar Gaddafi, with militants, militia gunmen and former rebels often resort to force to impose demands on the fragile government.

The minister, Hassan al-Drowi, was shot several times, a senior security official said, asking not to be identified.

"They opened fire from another car while he was driving, he was shot multiple times," the official said. "Later, they found explosives attached to his car. The theory is, the bomb failed, so they shot him instead."

The official blamed Islamist militants who have been trying to extend their influence in Sirte, which has been more stable recently than the coastal capital of Tripoli, about 460 km (290 miles) to the west, or the eastern city of Benghazi.

Sirte was the last bastion of Gaddafi loyalists in the war, and the strongman ruler was killed there on October 20, 2011.

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's central government, weakened by political infighting and with only nascent armed forces, is struggling to wrest control back from areas where militias are still dominant.

For six months, armed protesters have controlled key oil terminal ports in the east of the country to demand more political autonomy and a greater share of the OPEC country's petroleum wealth.

In Benghazi, the armed forces have been fighting to control the influence of Ansar al-Sharia, a hardline Islamist group Washington last week designated a terrorist organisation.

(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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