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Johannesburg - Gunmen have shot dead the mayor of Libya’s third-largest city, Misrata, after ambushing his car inside the city, security officials said.

Reuters reported on Monday that Sunday’s ambush followed gunmen chasing the car of Mayor Mohamed Eshtewi as he left Misrata airport after he had arrived from Turkey.

Misrata, Libya’s biggest port and situated 200km east of the capital Tripoli, had been relatively peaceful up until now despite the chaos wracking the North African country following the overthrow and subsequent death of Muammar Gaddafi during the 2011 uprising.

In October, a bomb exploded at the city’s court, killing four people and wounding 40 others in an attack claimed by the Islamic state (Isis).

Meanwhile, the killers behind the assassination have yet to be identified in a country where two rival governments claim authority and various militias fight each other as they vie for territorial supremacy while backing opposing military and political figures.

However, there are suspicions that militant revolutionaries and Islamists in the city could be the perpetrators.

Fingers are being pointed at the Misrata Military Council, led by pro-Islamist Ibrahim Ben Rajeb.

Previously the council had tried to pressure Eshtewi into resigning because of his support for the Libyan Political Agreement and the Presidency Council and his willingness to reach out to the east of the country.

Reports of a possible reprisal attack on the military council on Sunday night have since filtered through.

African News Agency/ANA