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Shooting outside Libyan parliament; lawmakers postpone election of new prime minister

TRIPOLI, Libya - A spokesman for the interim Libyan parliament said shooting broke out outside the main entrance to the parliament on Tuesday, causing lawmakers to postpone the selection of a new prime minister in the capital, Tripoli.

Parliament spokesman Omar Humaidan said there was an exchange of fire when presidential guards prevented an armed group from entering the building while members of the interim parliament were holding a special session to select a new prime minister, more than a month after sacking liberal-leaning Prime Minister Ali Zidan.

Humaidan said that the armed group was believed to support Mohamed Boukar, a candidate who had lost in a first round of voting. There were injuries on both sides, but members of the interim government were unharmed.

Lawmaker Hussein al-Ansari said that in voting on Tuesday the parliament had two candidates to choose from: 42-year-old businessman Ahmed Matiq from the country's third biggest city of Misrata, and Omar al-Hassi, a political science professor from the country's second largest city of Benghazi. Al-Hassi is backed by the hard-line Islamist bloc in parliament while Matiq is supported by independents.

The vote to choose a new prime minister was postponed until May 4.

Libya has seen a severe deterioration in security over the past two years following the ouster and the killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in an eight-month civil war.

Earlier in the day, a car bomb exploded in front of a military compound in the restive eastern city of Benghazi, killing two soldiers, security officials said.

The official says the bombing took place early on Tuesday morning in front of the special forces barracks near the Benghazi airport. He says two other soldiers were wounded by the explosion. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to journalists.

The government has depended on unruly militias to fill the security vacuum in the absence of a strong police force or a unified military.

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