A wave of targeted killings over 24 hours in the eastern city of Benghazi has left 10 activists, journalists and military personnel dead. According to the Washington Post, no group has claimed responsibility for the killings, and locals and activists said it was unclear if the assassinations were part of a coordinated assault on high-profile figures, or simply a series of random killings.
Among the dead were two activist bloggers, Tawfik Bensaud who was just 18 and Sami El-Kawafi who was 17. A list posted on the Libyan Youth Movement’s Twitter account said four people survived assassination attempts, including a female military officer who is currently being treated in an intensive care unit.
Following the 14 assassination attempts, the Libyan Youth Movement – a group set up to provide an accurate narrative of the Libyan uprising – referred to Friday, September 19 as “Black Friday” on Twitter.
This series of attacks suggests activists and journalists are being specifically targeted. At the beginning of September the U.N. published a report on violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws in Libya. It highlighted the dangers for journalists in the region stating that they are, “particularly concerned by the continued harassment of and attacks on journalists by all parties to the conflict, including restrictions of movement, confiscation of equipment, abductions, and assassinations.”
Libya has been in chaos since Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. A number of armed groups are striving for influence in the nation and the situation has deteriorated in recent months.
In August US officials said Egypt and the United Arab Emirates carried out secret air strikes against Islamist militia targets in Libya. According to the BBC a senior US official said that Washington had not been consulted about the attacks and they were “caught off-guard”. No confirmation has been made by the UAE and the Egyptian authorities have denied involvement.
Following the air strikes the governments of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States made a joint statement saying they, “strongly condemn the escalation of fighting and violence in and around Tripoli, Benghazi, and across Libya, especially against residential areas, public facilities, and critical infrastructure, by both land attacks and air strikes” they said that outside interference, “exacerbates current divisions and undermines Libya’s democratic transition.”