TRIPOLI - A deadly attack on troops, the killing of a rights activist and low turnout marred a parliamentary election Libyan authorities hope will end the political turmoil rife since the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi.
Seven soldiers deployed to provide polling day security in second city Benghazi were killed, and 53 injured, in what security officials said was an attack on their convoy by Islamist militia.
Later lawyer and human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis was shot dead by unknown assailants at her home in Benghazi, hospital and security sources said.
A former member of the National Transitional Council, the 2011 anti-Gaddafi rebellion's political wing, she was vice president of a preparatory committee for national dialogue in Libya.
The eastern city, which was the scene of a deadly 2012 attack on the US consulate, 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.
The electoral commission was also forced to close 18 polling stations in the western town of Al-Jemil after unidentified gunmen attacked five of them and stole ballot boxes, a local security official said.
By the time polls closed at 1800 GMT on Wednesday, just 630,000 of the 1.5 million registered voters had cast their ballot, a 47 per cent turnout, according to preliminary estimates by the electoral commission.
The number of registered voters itself is a far cry from the more than 2.7 million who signed up two years ago for Libya's first ever free election. Almost 3.5 million Libyans are eligible to vote.
A patchwork of militias
In the past few weeks, Libya has been rocked by a crisis that sees two rival cabinets jostling for power in a crippling showdown between Islamists and liberals, as violence raged in the east.
A patchwork of militias, including Islamic extremists, who helped overthrow Gaddafi in the 2011 NATO-backed uprising have been blamed for violence that has continued unabated since then.
"These are the last chance elections. We are placing much hope in the future parliament to restore the security and stability of our country," said Amr Baiou, 32, as he emerged from a polling station in Tripoli.
No voting was held in the eastern town of Derna, a stronghold of jihadists, for fear of attacks on polling stations.
In the south, just five out 15 polling stations opened in the Kufra region for "security reasons," the electoral commission said.
Interim prime minister Abdullah al-Thani said the election was "proceeding normally." "Regarding the organisation of voting in Derna, there will be measures to take this week," he added without elaborating.