Bomber targets renegade Libyan general

General Khalifa Haftar says there will be a “strong response” after suffering minor injuries in assassination attempt.

Army units loyal to General Haftar have been carrying out an offensive against armed groups in Libya's east [AP]

Libyan renegade general Khalifa Haftar said he had been briefly treated in hospital after suffering minor injuries in an assassination attempt.

“I am well,” he told Libya’s Al Oula television station. “There will be a strong response.”

A suicide bomber earlier on Wednesday blew up a jeep loaded with explosive near Haftar’s base outside Benghazi.

Haftar has been leading an offensive against armed groups in the eastern city. The attack left three people dead and injured several others.

Haftar’s spokesman, Colonel Mohamed Higazy, initially said the general was not hurt but military officials said he was wounded and taken to a Benghazi hospital.

Several messages were posted on Haftar’s Twitter account, quoting Quranic verses and prophetic sayings to condemn “Takfiris”, a term used to condemn Islamic groups that are considered extreme.

“God is the best protector”, said one message on his account, although it cannot be confirmed whether he wrote the messages himself.

Several reports suggested that the general would make a televised address shortly.

The Libyan air force’s chief of staff, Saqr al-Garoushi, was also wounded in the explosion and taken to hospital.

It was unclear if the attacker detonated his explosives-laden car outside Haftar’s residence or if he had actually gotten inside the compound.

No claim of responsibility

No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, which bore all the hallmarks of the armed groups whom Haftar has pledged to crush since launching his offensive last month.

Haftar’s residence is less than 2km away from Benghazi’s military command in the Benghazi suburb of al-Abyar.

A former army chief under the late Muammar Gaddafi, Haftar and army units loyal to him have been battling what they call terrorist groups, mainly in eastern Libya.

He has rallied support from the country’s weakened military, anti-Islamist politicians, tribes and diplomats, pledging to crush the armed groups he blames for Libya’s instability.

Since last weekend, helicopters flown by pilots loyal to Haftar have bombed camps in Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising that led to the toppling and killing of Gaddafi in Libya’s 2011 civil war.

The fighting has paralysed the city, with schools postponing end-of-term exams and hospitals calling for blood donations.