Libya’s Ansar al-Sharia leader dies months after ambush

US blames armed group for assault on diplomatic compound in Benghazi which killed ambassador and three others.

Libya''s Ansar al-Sharia leader Mohamed al-Zahawi
Ansar al-Sharia leader Mohamed al-Zahawi was injured in a September ambush [Al Jazeera]

The leader of Libya’s Ansar al-Sharia armed group has died of wounds he suffered while fighting pro-government troops several months ago, family and officials have said.

Mohamed al-Zahawi, who founded a brigade of Ansar in Benghazi after helping to oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, had been in hospital since he was hurt in September, members of his family told Reuters news agency.

The US blames Ansar al-Sharia for the assault on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi in 2012 which killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.

Fadhl al-Hassi, a Libyan military commander, said Zahawi had died from wounds sustained in last year’s ambush.

“I saw myself how he got wounded in his car,” he said.

There had been speculation for months over Zahawi’s fate after he disappeared from public view. There was no immediate statement from Ansar al-Sharia.

Former army general Khalifa Haftar vowed to take on Ansar al-Sharia in May, pushing it out of much of Benghazi.

Fighting is still going on between Haftar’s troops, which have now merged with regular army forces, and fighters in the port area and other districts of the eastern city.

The struggle is part of a wider conflict between former rebel groups who helped topple Gaddafi and are now competing for control of the major oil producer.

Libya has two rival governments and parliaments. The internationally-recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has been forced to work out of the east since a faction called Libya Dawn seized Tripoli in August.

The UN launched a new round of talks in Geneva last week aimed at defusing the country’s violent struggle, but the rival General National Congress administration pulled out of the talks on Wednesday following new clashes in Benghazi.

Source: Reuters