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Leading Libyan Female Politician Gunned Down As Rebels Battle In The Capital

Another respected Libyan voice gone.

Gunmen shot dead a leading Libyan female lawmaker in the restive city of Darna on Tuesday, as rival militias and government forces continued to battle for control of a major airport in the capital, Tripoli.

Unknown assailants gunned down Fareha al-Barqawi near a gas station, a Libyan official told the Associated Press. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity and did not provide further details, fearing for his own safety. Darna is a known stronghold of Islamic extremists.

Al-Barqawi was a prominent voice in a liberal-leaning bloc in Libya’s outgoing parliament. Her husband is also politically active, and was held as a political prisoner under former President Muammar Gaddafi.

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Targeted killings and kidnappings have spiraled out of control since an armed rebellion backed by NATO deposed Gaddafi in 2012. Libya has since struggled to overcome political divides and pull together a unified police, military, and judiciary, while rival militias that helped to oust Gaddafi continue to battle the government for political and economic power. In recent months, rebels have repeatedly attacked Libya’s already troubled parliament, further weakening the country’s chances of progress.

Remains of a burned out airplane at the Tripoli international airport on July 16 MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP / Getty Images

Meanwhile, on Thursday fighting in Tripoli between rival militia’s vying for control of Libya’s main airport continued into a fifth day. Eye witnesses reported that several shells hit the main terminal, shattering windows and damaging the ceiling.

Libyan officials closed the airports in Tripoli and Misrata City on Monday, a day after the fighting began. Libya shut another airport in Benghazi two months ago, and the oil-producing country has now been left without a functioning major airport. On Wednesday, airport comptrollers in western Libya went on strike to protest the Tripoli shelling. Eight people have died so far in the fighting, according to the BBC.

Following Monday’s announcement, United Nations pulled its staff out of Libya, saying that the deteriorating security situation and closure of the Tripoli airport had made it impossible to fulfill its mission.

Smoke rises after heavy fighting between rival militias near the airport in Tripoli on July 13 Hani Amara / Reuters

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