Libya election helicopter ‘shot near Benghazi’

BBC – 6th Jul 2012

Gunmen have fired at a helicopter carrying voting material for Saturday’s election, officials have said.

It made a forced landing outside the eastern town of Benghazi. There are unconfirmed reports one person died.

The identity of the attackers is not known, but eastern Libya has been a focus of unrest by groups seeking greater regional autonomy.

The parliamentary poll is the first national vote since Col Muammar Gaddafi was toppled last year.

The news comes as armed men closed at least three oil export terminals in the east in protest at the vote.

They are angered that the west of the country has been granted more seats in the new 200-member General National Congress than the oil-rich east.

According to Reuters news agency, about half of Libya’s oil exporting capacity has been shut down as a result.

“A helicopter carrying ballots and flying over the region of Hawari [south of Benghazi] was struck by small arms fire,” AFP news agency quotes Col Ali al-Sheikhi as saying.

He said one person was killed, but Reuters news agency quotes an official saying that one person aboard was wounded when the helicopter was struck by anti-aircraft fire.

The more than four-decade rule of Col Gaddafi, who died in October after the eight-month uprising, has left the country deeply divided along ethnic, regional and ideological lines.

The BBC’s Rana Jawad in the capital, Tripoli, says the country is still awash with weapons and there are lone regional and city brigades as well as some rogue militia groups that only take orders from themselves.

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