Since Moammar Gadhafi was ousted more than two years ago, assassinations have taken the lives of low-level government employees, activists, clerics, and security officials—but, as of two days ago, no top government officials. That ended Saturday, when Libyan Deputy Minister of Industry Hassan Drouai was shot numerous times as he drove home after shopping in the city of Sirte. "Later, they found explosives attached to his car," a security official tells Reuters. "The theory is, the bomb failed, so they shot him instead."
The attack has been pinned on hardline Islamist militants, perhaps angered by the country's secular transitional government; Drouai joined the National Transitional Council at a time when most of his hometown of Sirte backed another hometown boy: Gadhafi. And it's being seem as a gloomy development in the increasingly unstable country. The New York Times reports that the government had typically been able to negotiate an end to threats against its senior officials (as in this case). Further, gunmen have increasingly been targeting military and police in cities in the country's east, like Benghazi and Darnah. The Times sees Drouai's death as "the latest sign that the pattern of assassinations may be spreading westward," noting that Sirte sits to the west of Benghazi, on the way to Tripoli. (Read more Hassan Drouai stories.)