Libyan human rights activist gunned down in her home

A picture taken in May shows Libyan human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis (left), who was shot dead by unknown assailants at her home in the restive east Libyan city of Benghazi late on Wednesday. She was shot several times and was taken to hospital
A picture taken in May shows Libyan human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis (left), who was shot dead by unknown assailants at her home in the restive east Libyan city of Benghazi late on Wednesday. She was shot several times and was taken to hospital in a critical condition, where she died shortly afterwards, a hospital spokesman said. -- PHOTO: AFP

BENGHAZI, Libya (AFP) - Human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis was shot dead by unknown assailants at her home in the restive east Libyan city of Benghazi, hospital and security sources said.

"Unknown hooded men wearing military uniforms attacked Mrs Bugaighis in her home and opened fire on her," said a security official, who did not wish to be named.

She was shot several times and taken to hospital in critical condition, where she died shortly afterwards, a spokesman for the Benghazi medical centre said.

Her husband, who was in the family home at the time of the attack late on Wednesday, has since been reported as missing, according to a family member.

"We've lost touch with him," the relative said, adding that a security guard at the house had been shot and injured, but his life was not in danger.

Ms Bugaighis, a lawyer, played an active part in Libya's 2011 revolution, which overthrew the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.

A former member of the National Transitional Council, the rebellion's political wing, she was vice-president of a preparatory committee for national dialogue in Libya.

US ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones called the news "heartbreaking", and on her Twitter account denounced "a cowardly, despicable, shameful act against a courageous woman and true Libyan patriot".

Earlier on Wednesday, Ms Bugaighis had participated in Libya's general election. She published photos of herself at a polling station on her Facebook page.

Since the 2011 revolution, the east of Libya - and in particular the country's second city of Benghazi - has been a stronghold for jihadists, and the scene of attacks and assassinations targeting notably the military, police and judges.

At least three soldiers deployed to provide polling day security in Benghazi were killed in what security officials said was an attack on their convoy by Islamist militia.

Benghazi, which was the scene of a deadly attack on the US consulate in 2012, has been tense since a rogue former rebel commander launched an offensive against powerful Islamist groups late last month, drawing many regular army units to his side.