TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Masked armed men killed the police chief of Libya's capital Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said, amid an ongoing battle for the city's international airport.
As militia violence raged throughout the country, lawmakers voted Tuesday for a measure that would have the country's president elected in a direct, popular vote — a first for the North African nation.
Authorities found the police chief, Col. Mohammed Sweissi, dead in Tripoli, ministry spokesman Rami Kaal told The Associated Press. A ministry statement said masked gunmen attacked him after he left a meeting in Tripoli's Tajoura neighborhood and also kidnapped two of his associates.
The killing comes as militias from western city of Misrata and their Islamist allies battle a militia from the mountain town of Zintan over the airport. The two militias played key roles in the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in Libya's 2011 civil war.
The Tripoli battles are part of extensive Islamic extremist backlash after Islamist factions lost power in recent parliamentary elections. It also is a response to a campaign by a renegade general backed by some army units and Libya's Special Force against Islamic militias in the city of Benghazi. Sweissi backed the general's campaign.
The battles in Libya's two biggest cities have forced thousands to flee the country, including diplomats, foreign nationals and Libyans.
Meanwhile Tuesday, the country's newly elected parliament voted in favor of electing Libya's president in a direct, popular vote after debate. A total of 144 lawmakers voted in favor of the direct vote, out of 147 who attended the session in the Libyan city of Tobruk, said lawmaker al-Sadek Hamouda from Tripoli.
Libya had been ruled for 42 years by Gadhafi, who replaced the constitution with his own rambling political manifesto. Since his death, lawmakers have been trying to reform Libya's government and security forces.