Car bomb kills policeman in Benghazi as Libya violence escalates

BENGHAZI, Libya Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:10am EST

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BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - A car bomb killed a police officer in Benghazi early on Wednesday, a police source said, the second attack on the eastern city's security forces in two days.

Like much of the country, Benghazi - cradle of the popular revolt that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi more than a year ago - is awash with weapons. Libya's government has struggled to control rival armed factions there ever since the uprising.

Attacks on British, Italian, Red Cross and United Nations properties and personnel there in the past year highlight the precarious security in the North African state.

Wednesday's attack killed Salah al-Wizry as he arrived home late at night.

"He was killed in front of his house by a bomb planted in his vehicle," a police source said.

On Monday, at least one police officer was wounded when attackers threw a grenade at a patrol car in Benghazi.

On Tuesday, Italy - the former colonial power in Libya - suspended activity at its consulate in the city, Libya's second biggest, and withdrew staff for security reasons after a gun attack on its consul at the weekend.

Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Guido De Sanctis's armored car. He was unhurt but the attack was a reminder of the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission there that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

American officials say militants with ties to al Qaeda affiliates were most likely involved in that attack.

To keep a degree of order, Libya's government relies on numerous militias made up of thousands of Libyans who took up arms against Gaddafi. The groups provide what passes for official security but also what poses the main threat to it.

In November, the city's police chief was shot dead and attacks on police officers and buildings are frequent.

(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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