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Libya's footballers in the firing line

By James Masters and Ammar Benaziz, CNN
updated 10:57 AM EDT, Tue October 22, 2013
Al-Ahly of Tripoli, the country's biggest club, threatened to leave the Libyan football league after its coach and a player were both shot by snipers. The team is expected to return to action on October 26 according to the club's owner. Al-Ahly of Tripoli, the country's biggest club, threatened to leave the Libyan football league after its coach and a player were both shot by snipers. The team is expected to return to action on October 26 according to the club's owner.
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In the firing line
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Libya's Al-Ahly will return to action on October 26 following shooting of coach
  • Manager Hossam al-Badri and forward Mohamed Al-Maghrabi both suffered gunshot wounds
  • Football in Libya only restarted last month following two-year gap
  • Libya to host Africa Cup of Nations in 2017

Read this story in Arabic

(CNN) -- Shootings, attempted assassinations and intimidation - welcome to Libyan football in 2013.

The country's largest club Al-Ahly, which is based in the capital Tripoli, had been due to face Tersana Tuesday in its latest league match, but its participation in the national league was thrown into jeopardy after its Egyptian coach Hossam al-Badri was shot at following the 1-1 draw against Al Sowaihili on October 12.

Al-Badri told CNN Arabic then that he wanted to spend Eid al-Adha -- one of the two most important festivals in the Muslim calendar -- in Cairo and spend time thinking about if he would resume his duty in Tripoli or not.

The club told local media: "Our coach was shot at, at his home after a match in the league against Al Sowaihili that ended 1-1. He is safe but upset after what happened.

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"Three men in a car shot at him. The police have launched a full-scale investigation."

Two days later, Libya international striker Mohamed Al-Maghrabi, was shot in the arm by a sniper and rushed to hospital where is recovering.

Read: The story of Libya's rebel national soccer team

According to the club's official Facebook page, the incident was an assassination attempt, while it also stated that "many players from the club" had received death threats on their mobile phones.

The 53-year-old Al-Badri steered Cairo's Al-Ahly to the African Champions League title last November before joining the Libyan club in May. Club president Sassi Bouaoun has traveled to the Egyptian capital in a bid to convince his manager to return.

In an interview with Libyan television, Bouaoun confirmed the team had returned to training and was already preparing for the upcoming game against Tersana.

He also stated that because of the country's fragile security situation that there are opponents who do not wish to see Al-Ahly at the top of the league.

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Football in Libya only resumed last month after being brought to a halt in February 2011 by the civil conflict which ousted the dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The Ministry of Sport has held meetings with the Libyan Football Association and its members in a bid to provide extra security for staff, players and fans. Al-Ahly Tripoli had won its first two games of the season before the attacks

Football player Zahir Belounis (right) is welcomed by his mother as he arrives from Qatar at Paris' Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport on November 28, 2013. Football player Zahir Belounis (right) is welcomed by his mother as he arrives from Qatar at Paris' Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport on November 28, 2013.
Family reunion
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The incidents will cast a shadow over Libya's plans to host the 2017 African Cup of Nations.

The Confederation of African Football was not immediately available for comment on the Al- Ahly Tripoli attacks.

The country is only just recovering from the kidnapping of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan following an attempted coup carried out by political opponents determined to topple his government.

Zeidan was abducted from a luxury hotel in Tripoli and held for several hours by militia gunmen before being released.

The incident, which highlights threats posed by militias, is just one of several which have occurred since the revolution two years ago.

Armed militias have roamed the country largely unchecked since the 2011 ouster of Gadhafi.

Gangs of armed men have surrounded key ministries, including the Justice Ministry, trying to force out members of the democratically elected government.

Salah Marghani, the justice minister, was forced to evacuate after armed militias surrounded his ministry in April.

Libyan intelligence services have warned that the country is becoming a haven for al Qaeda to regroup and regenerate itself.

According to government officials, numerous weapons left over after Gadhafi's downfall are providing groups with different motivations to form their own militias.

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