Red Cross suspends Libya operation after murder

GENEVA, June 5 Thu Jun 5, 2014 10:33am EDT

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GENEVA, June 5 (Reuters) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is suspending operations in Libya while it investigates the killing of a staff member there, a spokesman said on Thursday.

Michael Greub, the Swiss head of a sub-delegation of the ICRC, was shot in the central coastal town of Sirte on Wednesday as he left a meeting with two colleagues in an unmarked car.

Anarchy is spreading in the North African oil-producing country where violence and political infighting have reigned since the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, and militias operate at will, beyond central government authority.

"It's a bit difficult to say if the organisation was targeted or our colleague because he was a Westerner. We just need to pause the operation," ICRC spokesman Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron said in Geneva.

The humanitarian agency has more than 160 people in the country, bringing aid to people who have been wounded, displaced or traumatised by conflict, and supporting the work of volunteers and ambulances belonging to the Libyan Red Crescent.

Saugeron said it was too early to say what the agency might do in the longer term.

He dismissed as "speculation" the suggestion that the ICRC could pull out of Libya altogether. He said there were a "range of possibilities" if it felt under threat of further attacks, but hoped it could resume operations as soon as possible.

Gunmen also fired a grenade at the prime minister's office and tried to kill a renegade general in attacks on Wednesday.

The ICRC flag flew at half-mast at its Geneva headquarters on Thursday in honour of Greub, 42, who previously worked in Iraq, Sudan, Yemen and Gaza. (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Louise Ireland)

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